October 18, 2012 by gemmalunn
I hadn’t kept a diary since I was 13 and that certainly did not lead me to any grand conclusions so I was skeptical about the benefits of a teaching journal. Nevertheless, inspired by various sources (JosetteLeBlanc, Michael Griffin, J.Richards(1), our new RP group) and keen to explore new ways to develop I decided to give it a go. My first journal entry (4/6/2012) came about after a pretty disappointing class; I thought it was a perfect time to test it out.
At that point I used 4 headings based on the Experiential Learning Cycle (ELC): feelings, description, interpretation and action plan.
Under the ‘feelings’ heading I wrote – ‘frustrated, annoyed, not bothered’, I’m a bit ashamed at the last one but I suppose I wrote it directly after the class and that was how I was feeling! Clearly the fact that I wrote about the event hopefully shows that I was bothered!
I was pleasantly surprised after the entry to firstly feel a lot calmer and secondly to have actually reached some conclusions about what I could improve. I should have believed Richards(1): “the mere act of sitting down and writing about a lesson often triggers insights into aspects of the lesson that the teacher may not have had time to consider during the lesson itself”. I realized that I had quickly and unfairly blamed students (Ss) for their behaviour in the lesson and once I re-read my journal entry I saw I had a large part to play in the way they had reacted. I hadn’t given them enough support, the task was too difficult and then I’d quickly become annoyed when they hadn’t done as I asked. The second entry after the same class the following week had more positive comments such as ‘much better class, Ss and I both finished on a better note, can still improve a lot but felt more positive after this lesson’.
Now, I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have thought about the lesson and reached similar conclusions without writing in the journal but I feel that the process of writing helped me to organize the facts and analyse the class a bit more deeply. Rather than dwell on / moan about the issue for the rest of the day I had some solid conclusions and an action plan for the next class.
Following my first two entries I then wrote in my journal sporadically after both good and not so good classes. Sometimes the entries haven’t helped all that much but more often than not the process of writing leads me to make improvements to the lesson and how I deliver it and really consider my actions before, during and after class.
These are my current journal headings:
Pre lesson: (I don’t always make notes beforehand as entries are not always planned)
– Goals and how do I intend to achieve these
– Possible problems and solutions?
– What happened? (description)
– What encouraged Ss to participate? (I’m constantly trying to increase S participation so this point is highly relevant to my classes)
– How did Ss react / behave?
– How did I feel during the class?
– How did I feel after the class?
– How do I know it did / didn’t go well? (I may feel the class was good/bad but what proof is there to back up my feelings)
– What will I do differently / better next time?
I’d be really interested to hear about the structure of other people’s journals, do you use headings or write more freely? Also, about anyone’s journal writing experiences; positive or negative. I also welcome any questions or comments.
1 – Richards, J (2005) Professional Development for Language Teachers.
– thanks to Chris Wilson for his 6 tips for any new Teacher who wants to blog post posted just in time!