The article under analysis is called Learning journals in higher and continuing education and is written by Arthur Langer (2002). The research is dedicated to the analysis of use of different periodicals as a means for fostering critical reflection among adult students who are involved in profession-oriented educational programs. The main purpose of the study is focused on the comparative examination of traditional students and non-traditional ones in terms of their use of learning journals. The researcher puts an emphasis on those students engaged in a technical computer class correlated with the requirements for learning journals.
The study of learning articles reveals many research questions such as pedagogical suggestions that journals are used for academic purposes. The researchers are also concerned with the assessment of critical reflections existed in those journals irrespective of non-reflective factors. The above argues the necessity to reevaluate theoretical frameworks taking into consideration actual responses of students and their impact of journal-writing formats.
For carrying out the research, a certain number of journals has been reviewed from three semesters of the same course. Each class has more than 100 students who interviewed to submit further clarification of the information delivered in journals. To understand the role of reflections in learning, the researcher applies definitions of this term proposed by Schon and Kolb who refer to reflections from the experiential angle (Langer 2002). To analyze the theoretical part of the question, Langer uses Morrison’s conceptual definition of this notion (Langer 2002). Additionally, the importance of reflective thinking has been also analyzed from specific and functional angles. The literature review has been oriented on the analysis of learning journals from three aspects: evaluation of the scholarly periodicals related to its role for the learning process in different fields of study; theoretical use and practical application of learning journals; different types of journals used to enhance critical thinking in student learning.
Data collection and analysis
In the paper, data collection involving the overview of the literature on learning journals presents theoretical and conceptual basis for the research and provides two main principles of data acquisition: assessment of learning journals delivered by students and interview of students who completed the course. The first mode requires students to submit two copies of journal for instructor’s comments and for further analysis. This approach permits to conduct a comparative survey of different writing styles revealing evidence of reflective thinking. The second method chosen by the researcher presupposes conducting the interview of 10 students aimed at defining their attitude to the process of writing.
Based on the modes that have been mentioned above, the author has made several important conclusions. First, the author has noticed that, while writing, students were more concerned with the formatting rather than with the writing itself, which was explained by subordinate relations between the teacher and students. The second remark has revealed that the submitted journals were more self-reflected, which explained by the fact that students were more self-oriented when writing about personal experience in life. After examination of the interview, the author admits that dialogue generates more possibilities for reflections. The advancement of critical and evaluative thinking in the end of the course is a natural phenomenon, as at this stage, student is able to accumulate his/her practical experience. In the article, the results have proved that the use of journals triggers the development of critical thinking. The results also show that, unlike traditional students, the non-traditional ones are more skeptical in terms of using learning journals; instead, they treat them as tools for study.
Strengths and weaknesses of the article
The article is considerable value for development and improvement of the learning process. The author has managed to define the importance of reflective thinking thus applying theoretical and empirical approaches to the research. By applying an interview and literature overview of learning journal, Langer has stated the connection of experience rate with the extent of reflective thinking. Arising from this, the author concludes that learning journals considerably enhances the process of critical thinking, which is especially significant for adult education. The research itself has been consistent and evidence-based so that each practical testing has been supported by theoretical elucidation. The author has also succeeded in proving the usefulness of learning journals serving as a tool for triggering reflective thinking.
However, the article has some misconception concerning the initial purposes of the research and its outcomes. In particular, the author has not mentioned the value of journal articles for non-traditional students specializing in technical computing in more detail. Instead, he is more focused on the analysis of the process of critical thinking and its functional value for improving the academic courses. Langer has not mentioned the pedagogical concern with student’s responses to the article and, therefore, it needs a in-depth examination in future; this questions has been briefly discussed in the concluding part of the article. The article has also a vague presentation of literature review sections where he uses sources that reveal some terms and definitions of the notions applied by the author to accentual only one aspect of the research.
The article has appeared to me interesting from the cognitive and learning aspects. From my point of view, especial consideration requires a detailed description of the process of thinking, which is an inherent condition for the knowledge acquisition. Hence, Lange manages to provide a logical and consistent explanation of the role of reflective thinking for the training process. What is new for me is considering the learning journals as the basis for critical thinking development and reflection, which is, one of the most unconventional approaches aimed at investigating academic field. In a whole, the article can be a valuable addition both for students and for instructors.
The methods used in the research were quite effective, as the author has managed to notice the important details. I have also noticed that the research implicitly includes the psychological approach. Hence, the author analyzes the impact of students’ experience for reflective perception and critical response. Additionally, such aspects as gender consideration also impose some psychological notes to the process of research, as this is also an important detail.
When considering the structure of the article, I feel difficulties in summarizing the main points, as all theoretical and practical components are closely interwoven. For instance, the literature review section is also mentioned in other sections of the paper thus diverting attention from the main point. Another difficulty occurred during the examination is connected with the analysis of the main weaknesses of the paper, as the research itself is a great contribution to the improvement of adult education and teaching process.
Langer, M. L. (2002). Reflecting on Practice: using learning journals in higher and continuing education. Teaching in Higher Education. 7(3), 337-351