A collaborative article in progress.
Jill Burton, Rebecca Mlynarczyk, Phil Quirke, Carla Reichmann
This article is a novel experiment in collaborative writing.
- we, the authors, are attempting to practise what we preach by using a discussion board as a journal medium to talk about and reflect on journal writing. So, the discussion board becomes a collective journal on journals
- the article is 'live' in that it changes as we discuss the work we are doing through the discussion board journal. You, the reader, can therefore come back each week to see how our work is progressing. You can also use this link to see how our preparation for the upcoming TESOL2004 presentation on journalling is progressing.
- you, the reader, are welcome to join us on the discussion board and even begin contributing to the article with your use of journals.
The, at present, eight authors, all with numerous years of experience
in journal writing, present the work we have been doing on journals since the
TESOL Convention in Salt Lake City in 2002 where we had met face-to-face for
the first time having worked collaboratively on the TESOL
Journal Writing Cases in Best Practice Book. The article aims to show the
diverse uses and aims of writing journals by detailing our experiences, including
my paragraph on how we have maintained a journal on writing journals amongst
ourselves. The end of the article allows you to join our discussion group and
thereby gives you the opportunity to:
- ask any questions you want to on journals
- give us your suggestions on how this article is developing and what you would like to see added, changed or deleted
- suggest to us other ways of using journals as you share your journal experiences with us
- join the article with your own paragraph on the research you are doing on journals
The article focuses on our journal work in progress and encourages you, the readers, to join a highly motivated and experienced group of professionals in an international multi-faceted approach to the use of journals in both the language classroom and the teacher training and development field. The journals described range from reflective journals on a teacher training course in the Middle East to supportive journals on a three-week qualitative research programme in Thailand, and from field work journals for trainee teachers in Kentucky to pen pal journals among international language students. We encourage you all to join us in discovering the wonders of using journals in a myriad of settings. Just read on.
currently working on two forms of journal writing - both through an email or
First, in my role as tutor on the Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults (DELTA) I offer the teachers on the course the opportunity to use email as a reflective journal forum. I have always used journals on our course here in Abu Dhabi and have run them in an email format for the last three years. My specific research interest this year lies in the way in which the journals are taken up by certain teachers and not by others. This year, there are currently three teachers who are using the journals intemittently. Last year I had one teacher use the journal from time to time and one teacher who made weekly entries throughout the course. The year before saw six teachers take to the journals like fish to water and use them on a weekly or even more regular basis. My initial review of the files indicates that neither the teachers' technical disposition nor their reflective powers nor their experience with journals in the past seems to be a deciding factor in take up of this reflective medium. Rather, the initial research points to the role of the tutor and how I have responded to the teachers as the main reason for a teacher launching into the journal as a powerful reflective tool that they see as beneficial to their teaching and success on the course. Therefore, my continued research this year will look into the language and content of my responses and how these factors encouraged teacher responses and promoted reflection.
Second, I see this article and the accompanying discussion board as a journal medium. The article in its present, January 2003, format is based directly on the 32 email exchanges we have shared since the Convention last April, 2002. These exchanges will now move to the discussion board, which will form the basis of my continuing research this year. At present, I must confess to little or no analysis of our email exchanges. The work I have done to date has been to synthesise these exchanges into the article you are reading. From here, I would hope to analyse the development of this paragraph into a full article on how the discussion board has proven to be an effective (or ineffective) medium for this collaborative journal on journal writing.
Carla has explored dialogue journal (DJ) writing in a different format this year. After having conducted a mentoring project through DJ writing with another EFL teacher for fifteen months - which ended up as a Ph.D. dissertation, at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC), in Brazil - this time I did something else. Actually, this is how I first came across DJs, in graduate school in the U.S., in 1991 - the teacher had the students pair up, write to each other during the duration of the course, and hand in a final reflective paper about the experience. On being assigned an undergraduate Academic Writing course at UFSC, I thought this format would fit - since the beginning of the semester, the students knew their final paper should address the journaling process, they would be writing reflectively about their own writing. In hindsight, I think the experience was very productive, journaling is not a common pedagogical tool in Brazil, and the students' feedback was very interesting. I never got to see their journals, and although some papers did not exactly include some discursive markers they were supposed to have woven into their texts, the response regarding the DJ experience was very positive. Many were surprised to see their own growth and involvement. Anyway, now I have some 20+ papers on my desk, and I am still wondering what exactly I will do with these papers. I suppose I will use some aspect of Halliday's systemic-functional linguistics, as I did on my Ph.D. project, but I am still not sure which (transitivity? grammatical subjects? expansions?) Suggestions are most welcome... firstname.lastname@example.org
Jill is interested in looking at some
of the difficulties of making journal writing work, and the following overview
is based on a paper given at the ThaiTESOL Conference in Bangkok on January
In September 2000, I ran a 3-week qualitative research program for thirteen university EFL teachers who maintained journals on their expectations as part of a qualitative research education program.I introduced a journal strand into this program for several reasons. I thought it would help the teachers reflect on their reading, the discussions, and their research interests; that it would give them a quiet time within their contact teaching hours. I also wanted them to experience qualitative research procedures as participants, in particular, the ethics negotiation.
In their first journal entries, the teachers made comments like the following:
" My boss says I really need to start doing research, university policy and all" [T5]
" How can I prove or convince everyone concerned including myself that we need to make to changes in the way we teach English here?" [T10]
" I want to say that:
1. Research requires time, energy, and concentration (and money, too!)
2. Research can be fun if we know how to do it properly; otherwise it is a big burden
3. Research is rediscovery." [T15]
" I don't really know how to start, but with help would 'start to see the light' "[T2].
Teachers' Initial Research Goals
Analyzing student essays
Learner independence through self-access programs
Peer editing in English V
Teaching speaking in large classes (more than 30)
Reading proficiency of English IV students
Thai students' use of nouns in English
Thai students' pronunciation and speaking skills in English
Relationship between reading and writing proficiency of Thai students in EFL
Two years later, I followed up whether this group of teachers had realized
their hopes or overcome the fears they had identified during their 3-week journals.
The teachers and I had planned to continue journal writing by e-mail after I
returned to Australia, but as our interaction had become sporadic , I sent out
Answering the survey I sent out, the following teacher's comment was typical:
" I don't have enough time, especially with a full teaching load . We all have too many things to do each term to keep everyone busy all the time" [T8].
A number of the teachers thought they were partly to blame, due to poor time
" I can collect data but analyzing data needs continuous time and concentration" [T1]
" I would like to blame myself also. Lack of strong determination to carry on research is an important factor that has prevented research completion" [T11]
" Procrastination is my worst problem I think .I often put my own projects on hold to help [students] out" [T3].
" I don't know how to manage time as I have been appointed to work in the administrative position. I need more time to adjust myself" [T2].
" I find it difficult to keep switching from a teaching mode to a researching mode" 
The teachers had a number of specific suggestions about the kind of support
that could have helped them carry out their research, apart from time off. These
mainly concerned collaboration:
" Having an expert in language research for consultation Research Clinic that can really help in my field" [T2]
" More support and interest from colleagues" 
Of the 13 teachers, one completed her initial research project and went on
to do other studies, one had completed their research, and two were about to
start research. The teacher who completed their research came to work with me
in Australia as an overseas research scholar, and he commented:
" I was able to complete my research through several struggles: attempts and re-attempts. I must confess it is an extremely difficult task for any teacher with tight teaching schedules and other workload (for the workhorse!) to conduct research. Time and resources are the most important factors in doing research. The nature of university also plays an essential part in the promotion of research; if it is a teaching-based university, research can be a pipe-dream; but if it is a research-based university, research is highly achievable. [T]o me [it] is somewhere between. So, research can be both possible and impossible, depending on how you manage your time and resources, and of course your life!"
These outcomes and perceptions were not unexpected, because they are not that unusual where teachers are heavily committed in several directions or don't work in a constantly professionally renewing environment. Without sustained administrative and financial support which enables continued collaboration, consultation, and mentoring, interest and persistence in combining teaching and researching fades away. At the 2000 ThaiTESOL Conference talking about professional development I had made 5 suggestions:
1. EFL teachers should become researchers because it helps to focus their teaching and informs their planning.
2. Reflection, evaluation, and planning are integral parts of teaching.
3. Collaboration is important, because teachers can learn from each other.
4. How teachers talk with each other about teaching affects how they teach and how others evaluate what they do.
5. Institutions and systems should support EFL teachers as researchers because teachers who investigate what they do can take responsibility for teaching outcomes.
I still believe these are viable suggestions. What's missing, what is undermining implementation, is evidence of # 5.
Ponte (2002) sees teacher-conducted research as a mind-set, or attitude-to, for example, what actions to take, how to think, understand, know, and take the initiative-that teachers develop gradually over time with support.
I believe that teacher journal-writing is one means of providing professional support for developing this attitude. But it only worked in this setting for the short, three-week period that teachers were expected to attend the professional development program on qualitative research, during which they were invited to write entries. Teachers wrote regularly, every day. The entries over the 3 weeks chart their brimming enthusiasm to do research and their sloughs of despair. With each teacher, I tried to construct a Vygotskyan zone of proximal development, as it were.
So having answered the question about when doesn't teacher-conducted research work (when it isn't supported properly), I'm left with another question: When don't teacher journals work? The surface answers are the same: lack of support, i.e., time and funding. But as with teaching and researching, teachers are less likely to become journal-writers unless the 'and' between teaching and journalling is removed. That means that hese reflective activities (journaling and researching) need to be formally and practically recognized as part of teaching practice.
Ponte, P. 2002. How Teachers Become Action Researchers. Educational Action Research 10, 3: 399-422.
In addition to what I'm hoping to do with the Thai data, I'm now planning an email journal with 6 PhD students. We're planning to meet every 3 or 4 weeks during the semester to discuss ongoing issues, challenges, successes, etc. and I have 2 of the group interested in managing the discussion between meetings as an electronic journal. We thought we may eventually write up the experience, so it will give the group the opportunity to support each other and maybe write together. One or two are keeping journals as part of their qualitative research data already. Those that aren't may be encouraged by this process to start; certainly a hope on my part. In any case, the collaborative process we are envisaging will encourage written reflection between meetings on the process as well as their research, so a comparison of the two journals is a real possibility. They all seem very pleased at the thought of working together like this.
LT I have my students keep journals
as they do field-work activities for teacher training. I could shift to look
at the dynamics of the synchronous and asynchronous interactions that my online
students are participating in. I could actually conduct a mini-case study using
journals during my classes. I am currently having students keep an observation
journal of the linguistic data they are collecting. Also, we are doing synchronous
chats daily to discuss the materials in my online course. I also require the
students to chat in small groups reflecting on the readings and other materials
in the course. I am currently thinking about using some type of reflective journal
assignment for one of my courses next semester. Rather than have them submit
reflection papers to me, I think that I'm going to have them submit reflections
to small-group discussion boards in class so that they can reflect on the readings
and can respond to each other. This was one of the suggestions that I had at
the end of my chapter in the
TESOL Best Practice publication.
Basically, what I'm finding by having them write and reflect online is that they approach the readings with more depth and tend to ask more probing questions in class.
Apart from the above, I am using two different types of journals in my classes. For my research methods class, I have the students paired up as discussion partners on our electronic class discussion board through Blackboard to discuss the readings for the class as well as their own research as they begin it. These partners will also be used to help in giving feedback at the various stages of the student research. So far it is helping in that my graduate students have already processed the readings more thoroughly than before, making the class discussions more lively.
For my intercultural competence class, I have put the students in small groups using our Blackboard program as well. I have left the topics open and flexible for now, but have given optional topics just in case the students can't think of anything to get started with. For example, in class we talked about the relationship between language and culture. The students all eagerly agreed that you can't really know the language without knowing the culture, so I asked them what they would do if they were teaching in a situation where they were asked to teach the language but to leave out many aspect of the English speaking cultures that were not valued in the home culture of the students they were teaching. As an example, I stated that based on previous discussions with many of my Arabic students, they are asked to teach English, but they are forbidden to talk about many of the cultural aspects that are prevalent in our daily Western lives. I'm interested to see how the students respond. I would say, in response to the concern that students do not feel they 'own' the journal in an electronic format, that since the students are only allowed to view the discussions for which they are enrolled, I don't really see any lack of ownership on Blackboard. Of course this could be because I've only used electronic journals. The discussion in the culture class was a great beginning for the semester. As in the past, the entries were short, but I expect that they'll get longer as the semester progresses. As for Blackboard in general, it has its pros and cons. The major problem is the cumbersome nature of the administration and dissemination of information, but the discussion board and virtual chat functions are rather nice. What I like best about Blackboard as a journal medium is that I can view all of the related discussion entries all at one time. Also, I have a little reply button for each entry so that I can respond to individual entries.
MC I have a couple of things I'm doing
at the moment with journals. One is trying to work out ways of introducing them
to large classes of somewhat superficially motivated teenagers. I have around
160 students this semester and am trying to find how much can realistically
be done in terms of responding to their very beginning writing, and what other
ways there may be of creating a useful writing/reflecting environment for them.
At the same time I have the luxury of working with a small seminar group loosely
concentrating on various aspects of discourse analysis, who really have the
potential to make use of journals to reflect on their learning and development.
It seems to me that while the latter is of course much more comfortable and stimulating for me as a teacher, it's the 'default' situation of such a lot of the research into autonomous/ reflective/independent learning. The former is less glamourous and will very likely yield fewer of the kind of striking quotations that we (me included) often put into our papers, but in fact is closer to the situation of most teachers. I have colleagues for whom 160 sounds like a picnic: teachers with more than 400 students a week. Where this leads me, I'm not sure, but it's one of the things I'd like to investigate this year.
A related question which seems to me a rather big gap in the writing on journals is to do with how that writing (the writing about journal writing: what we all do) comes into being. Do our ideas come from our data, or the data from our ideas? How do we marshall the data to back up our interpretations? Why does one quotation from a student end up in our books, papers, and many others not? What contrasting interpretations might there be of our experiences? And what evidence is there, within our own data, to support these 'other' interpretations? It gets back to the somehwat old question of just what is the status of the knowledge we purport to be creating. What exactly constitutes the quality in qualitative research, and how can we justify it not to those readers who are already convinced, but to the sceptical? Of course I think we can, and in our book we do, to a large extent. But, .....
Phil responds - I like using journals with large unmotivated groups of students as it provides them with another learning option that does appeal to some who would otherwise not get involved - it's the response that becomes more difficult and by definition less personal. The only way I have managed it is by having a class journal which I respond to and all can read. With the class journal the students each have a submission date for their journal - Saturday to Tuesday. I then respond to these journals in a combined entry in "my" journal to the class which is left in their room from Wednesday first thing. At the start of this process I base a couple of reading classes on my entries, but after that "my"/class journal is available for all asundry to see at any time. The only time it is not in the room is Tuesday afternoon when I'm writing it :)Any other ideas? The use of student quotes has always been determined in my case about whose I can use.... I have found that not many students are willing to release their journals for data.
JP I am interested in how journal writing
works (or doesn't work) for people who are no longer in school (and their professor
is making them do it) or doing research (and want to use their own or others'
writing as data) but rather are leading full lives (like ours!) without external
forces helping them get it done. I love doing journal writing, and I certainly
love studying it and reading about it, but I have to say I really don't like
finding the time to DO it!! I have a brother who
desperately needs to keep a journal but cannot find the wherewithal to do it either.
So ... what formats, structures, and prompts help us do the very thing that could enhance our lives immeasurably and possibly even change them completely?
I think that we should provide multiple ways for students to do journal writing -- multiple formats, topics, and prompts (sparks). More and more I see how
very differently we all respond to things and carry things out. One way of doing things simply doesn't work for all of us. So ... it would be great to know what ARE the various formats being developed for carrying out this kind of work. I would love to know the different formats the people use for journal writing and to even see examples. I have a journal right now that is my favorite, and it has actually gotten me writing again. I would like to think about how it would work in the classroom.
This is one format I like a lot. This comes from a marriage class, and the journal is called a To Love and to Cherish Journal, to help people change their perspective on their marriage. I'll give you one of the pages as it is and then try to adapt it to a class situation. I like it very much because it gives before it asks
for, and it's very easy and quick to do (at stoplights, for example), but in the end there is a lot of writing in the little book.
A spiral bound book (6x9) has 40 sheets, each one like the one below, but each with a different quote, thought, and task.
TO LOVE AND TO CHERISH
Day 1 ______________ (DATE)
Quote: "People who really and truly love each other are the happiest people in the world." Mother Teresa
Thought: I am genuinely fond of my spouse.
Task: List one characteristic you find endearing or lovable.
Joys of the day:
What I'm grateful for:
Possible application to a classroom situation. Let's say the class is focusing
on the topic of peace and conflict -- in individuals, homes, and societies --
literature and essays about peace and conflict.
PEACE AND CONFLICT IN EVERYDAY LIFE
Day 1 ______________ (DATE)
Quote: FROM A WELL-KNOWN PERSON ABOUT EITHER PEACE OR CONFLICT (THERE ARE MANY)
Thought: I would love to live in a peaceful country.
Task: List one characteristic of a peaceful society.
Joys of the week:
What I am grateful for:
OF COURSE PROMPTS LIKE THESE LAST TWO COULD GO ON AND ON.
What I am hopeful of:
What I would like to do to bring peace to this country:
Phil responds - Time for journal writing? Now there's one we all struggle with. I find I'm much better at responding to my student and teacher journals than I am at keeping my own. I started a PhD journal a year ago to try and track my own thought processes during the research and from once a week entries I'm down to once a month, but I am persevering --- the first time I have succeeded since I did my diploma a decade and more ago. I'm finding this kind of interactive journal is making me contribute more, so maybe on top of personal incentive - collaboration plays a role?? Can that make sense if we are setting individual student journals? Does it maybe mean we should open another avenue to students?
Rebecca - The issue of how to use journals
with students who don't have much English or, in any case, who don't write very
much or very reflectively was the focus of my chapter for our TESOL
Best Practice in Journal Writing book. When I moved from a 4-year college
to a community college, I found that the students could not just sit down and
"reflect on their reading and writing." I had to offer them more structure
for journal writing and provide more opportunities for them to share their journals
with other students so that they could get a sense of the different options
Another problem I encountered when I took my current job, where there is a huge Russian immigrant population, was that students educated in the former Soviet Union were extremely uncomfortable with the idea of expressing (any) personal ideas in writing. They had been well trained as writers, but the subject matter had been strictly prescribed. "My Grandfather Lenin" was a favorite topic, and everyone knew exactly what to say about Grandpa. So, you can imagine that these students were not comfortable with vague prompts such as "write reflectively about yourself as a reader and writer." Gradually, the students and I came to a better understanding of how to use journals productively.
My ESL students are doing their first journals at the moment and will share them in discussion groups. Having a chance to discuss this process with you would certainly add to my own learning & research.
EL I am in the process of doing more research on several years of work on pen pal journals involving university students studying to become ESL teachers (my students) and L2 children. One area that I will be examining this year is children's advice letters on how to write a good pen pal letter. I have journal entries from two groups of children who wrote reflective entries on this topic: second grade native speakers of English and second grade L2 learners. Their ideas on this topic differ and I would like to explore these differences.
If you are interested in knowing more about the ideas expressed in this article, and about the work that has been done on journal writing and reflective practice, the following books and articles may be of some help. The list represents some of the main influences on the work of the contributors to this article, though it is by no means complete.
Bailey, K.M. (1983). "Competitiveness and anxiety in adult foreign
language learning: Looking at and through the diary studies." In H.W. Seliger
& M.H. Long (eds), Classroom oriented research in second language acquisition.
Rowley, MA: Newbury House.
Elbow, P. (1973). Writing without teachers. New York: Oxford University Press
Fulwiler, T. (ed.) (1987). The journal book. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton and Cook.
Holly, M.L., & Smyth, J. (1989). "The journal as a way of theorising teaching". The Australian Administrator 10, 3&4: 1-8.
Ivanic, R. (1995) 'Writer identity' in Prospect 10,1,8-31
Mlynarczyk, R.W. (1998). Conversations of the mind: The uses of journal writing for second-language learners. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum and Associates, Publishers.
Peyton, J. K. (Ed.). (1990). Students and teachers writing together: Perspectives on journal writing. Alexandria, VA: TESOL.
Reichmann, C.L. (2001). Reflection as social practice: an in-depth linguistic study of teacher discourse in a dialogue journal. Unpublished doctoral thesis, PGI-UFSC
Richards, J.C. (1991) Towards reflective teaching. The Teacher Trainer, 5, 3, pp. 4-8.
Schon, D. (1983). The reflective Practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey Bass
Seliger, H.W. & Long, M.H. (eds), (1983). Classroom oriented research in second language acquisition. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.
Street, A. (1990) 'The practice of journalling for teachers, nurses, adult educators and other professionals', part of a research project entitled "A practice-based approach to nurse education" funded by the Percy Baxter Foundation, Deakin University, Victoria
Tripp, D. (1987). Theorising practice: The teacher's professional journal. Geelong: Deakin University Press.
van Lier, L. (1996). Interaction in the language curriculum: Awareness, autonomy, & authenticity. London: Longman.
And then, of course, you are more than welcome to JOIN OUR DISCUSSION GROUP.