Can keeping a reflective journal help you learn? Yes, but you need focus: good guidelines with a catalogue of questions. Is feedback neccessary? Not really, but it can be motivating – especially feedback from your peers.
At a recent conference on Personal Learning Environments, Marc Graber of the University of Zürich studied the progress that school children made who kept a journal like this. He had four groups: The online jourmal (a blog) with and without guidelines, and a pen and paper journal with and without guidelines. Those writing a blog made about the same progress as those who kept a pen and paper journal. The essential difference was not the medium; it was the method: Those who did not have a structured agenda didn’t make more progress than the control group – students who didn’t keep a journal at all. Writing is not a “Selbstläufer” – that means, it doesn’t do the trick on its own!
I’m convinced – though I don’t have proof – that this can also be applied to the way we adults learn. I’m sure that you can improve your English by writing on your own, but you will do better with an agenda. I’ve noticed that myself: Since I’ve found mentors, I’ve started learning much faster. I also think that we adults profit more from writing online, but (as they say): the proof is in the pudding (das muss ich erst noch testen!)
So you learners of English: I’d like to be your mentor and help you build your agenda. Come join my blog group, and start reflecting on how you use English!
Here are my amateur screenshots of Graber’s presentation: