Keeping a Learning Journal

A learning journal, or reflective journal, as it is sometimes called, is really just a collection of your notes, observations, thoughts, and reflections about a lesson, subject or course. It is totally free-form, and there are not set requirements, unless your school or subject find it compulsory. It’s your journal, to do what you want with it. If I’ve lost you already, let me assure you, this is not something you have to do, nor is it one of those lame exercises students are often made to do. If you find it useful, then go ahead and use it. If not, then don’t bother. But at least let me explain the concept, as well as it benefits, and methods for completing it.

What’s it for?

I know how much students have a penchant for letters: the 5Ws (who, what, where, when, why), the 3 Rs (reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic), so I’m going to introduce you to a different set of Rs. Responses, reactions and reflections. These sound kind of ‘rritating, but if you approach them the right, they can become extremely useful. These three Rs are about your learning experience: your ideas, your lectures, your research, your readings, your conversations, and your experience. It’s all about you.

But why?

Your probably asking me, why on earth would I bother with this? You’re here because you want to learn more about studying, and the way you learn, right? Well, this is a method for identifying your study techniques, how you work best. It also keeps a record of your achievements, your shortcomings, and your understanding. You can see as you go how your understanding has developed. By writing a learning journal, you are also becoming a reflective learner. The attributes of a reflective learner often coincide with the Habits of Mind.

  • Thinking about Thinking (Metacognition)
  • Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations
  • Remaining Open to Continuous Learning
  • Questioning and Posing Problems

And I’m sure you could think of some others.

What do I write?

You can write pretty much anything you want. Many sources suggest variations of the following:

  • thinking through problems faced
  • asking questions about the topic / the learning process
  • finding information to fill gaps in understanding
  • reflecting on solutions
  • what was done
  • why it was done
  • how it was done
  • whether it worked
  • opinions on issues
  • inspiration
  • knowledge
  • gaps in understanding
  • ways to improve
  • resources that have been helpful
  • reflection on the outcome
  • new discoveries from writing

You can write about all, some or none of these. A learning journal is a completely personal, and everything you do in it is your decision.

In the Long Term

Writing in your learning journal doesn’t have to be an everyday thing. Alternatively, you could write at the end of the month, course, semester or week. Or you could combine a variety of these. So what do you write about in these long term reflections? It’s a bit much to write about all of those above, and it’s bordering on useless. I suggest

  • how your opinions have changed
  • how you think you are going
  • where you can improve
  • how you best learn
  • the next steps for progress


So know you know what, when and why to write. But what about where? There are so many tools available to us, thanks to the digital revolutions. Try some of these free options:


If the web is your scene, there are a million blogging services you could use:

*For the technologically minded. Requires a lot of set-up and/or maintenance.


Don’t have much time? Try these:

Digital Journals

Digital notebook/journal/diary software

  • Evernote (requires internet connection)
  • Penzu (requires internet connection)
  • My Diary (requires internet connection)

Old School

Keep it old-school with these analogue solutions:

  • Notebook
  • Scrapbook
  • Word docs. (really old school 🙂 )

I hope you give these a chance. I personally recommend Penzu, Evernote, WordPress and Posterous, they are great tools.

Do you keep a learning journal? Do you think you might now? Are you  totally turned off by the idea? Let me know in the comments.



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About Katie Walker

Hey, I'm a student. I'm into web development, so currently I'm working on my blog, a few Tumblr themes, and a few web apps for various purposes. It's exciting stuff.

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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