Archive for category Reflection

Journaling for Learning #futurereadylearning

Keeping a journal is a common approach to both building self-awareness and learning from specific events or activities.  Journalling can be a regular habit (e.g. daily or weekly), or done when specific triggers occur.  Either way, keeping a journal is one of the most useful personal development and learning habits you can develop.

Benefits of keeping a journal

Writing in a journal can be what Charles’ Duhigg refers to as a ‘keystone habit’ in his book The Power of Habit:

“small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.”

A keystone habit helps lock other habits into place.  As such I recommend regular reflection via a journal as a high leverage learning habit, and an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to be more effective with their personal learning.

The following articles discuss a range of benefits of keeping a journal:

More specifically, if your intent is to learn, keeping a journal is a form of sense-making; it helps you to make sense of and experience or even, see patterns and connections over time, and improve how you learn.

When to Write

You can either write on a regular schedule (e.g. daily or weekly), or when a specific event occurs (e.g a project milestone, after a recurring meeting).  Research on habit formation indicates that you are more likely to develop a habit if you identify a cue or trigger for doing the action you want to take.  For example, when you sit at your desk after your afternoon coffee, after your morning walk, after your weekly team meeting.

For many people scheduling an appointment in their calendar / diary helps to protect a block of time to write.

The time required to write in journal regularly does not need to be large.  You could invest as little as ten minutes a day to gain significant benefits over time.

What does a learning journal look like?

There is no set format for a journal.  A blank page can be daunting, so having a standard structure will make keeping a journal easier.  The following articles have some suggestions regarding structure and prompts:

One simple structure developed by John Driscoll is to use three questions:

  • What?  Describing an event
  • So What? Analysing the event
  • Now What? Identifying what you will do (or do differently moving forward)

Experiment with formats.  Combine different formats to figure out what you enjoy and find effective.

Journal entries can be made either by hand-writing or typing.  Each has their pros and cons – try both and see what you prefer.

My Personal Journal Practice

My Year 8 English teacher introduced me to journaling, and I’ve maintained this practice on and off for close to four decades.  When I commenced journaling hand-writing was the only option.  I enjoyed the tactile sensation of writing on paper, the look of my journals lined up on a bookshelf, and the ease of flicking through the pages.  However, I was always concerned with privacy as it is easy for someone else to look through a physical notebook, and this led to some self-censoring.  I’ve recently gone fully digital, including scanning a one-metre high stack of old paper journals (as shown in the photo).

I use Evernote for my journal as it synchronises across all my devices and has very good search capability. I’m interested to explore how my thinking on different topics has developed over time by searching for entries by word, phrase or tag.

I primarily use two formats – freeform writing for deep reflection and prompted entries on a daily and weekly basis using the following lists of questions:

This post is part of a series by Michelle Ockers outlining different ways of taking charge of your own learning.  It was developed following delivery of a keynote on the topic ‘Future Ready Learning’ to provide resources for participants to explore approaches covered briefly in the keynote.  Michelle can be contacted regarding keynote speaking on this theme at 

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The Power of Continuous and Consolidated Reflection

I’ve read several end of year blog posts about ‘What I Learned This Year.’  I enjoy reading them as I’m interested in how others learn, and also find that it sparks ideas for my own development.  When I sat down to write a similar post about what I learned in 2017 I made a list of areas I had developed in, and was surprised by how long it was. It’s been a year of rich learning, and I don’t have time right now to sit down and cover everything in a single post.  Actually, given my list of projects and priorities, I’m not sure when I would make time for this.

The second realisation I had was that in most instances my learning in different areas / topics is incomplete – it’s a work in progress.  This makes sense as learning is continuous, and is part of being human.  While you may protest that you know someone who never seems to learn, as humans we can’t not learn – just some people do it more consciously and effectively than others.

The continuous nature of learning is why it’s important to reflect often, and one of the reasons that narrating your work and learning is so valuable. I learn quicker and better when I think about what I am doing and how I could do it better on a daily and/or weekly basis.  Recording my narration in writing or on video (generally via Snapchat) leaves a trail that I can follow to see how I moved from one point to another, including all the meanderings, double-backs, side-tracks and dead ends along the way.  By recording my narration I create a resource for further reflection and learning.  This record helps to fill in the gaps and inaccuracies in my memory of what I did, how I did it and what the experience was like as I was doing it.  It informs my future direction and next steps, as well as my learning methods. Where I choose to Work Out Loud and share some of this with others I have the opportunity to deepen my learning via feedback and discussion.

There is also benefit in looking at my progress and patterns over a longer chunk of time.  This helps to consolidate my learning and look ahead to how I can apply this and what I want to learn and create next.  I find three months is long enough time to gain useful insight, particularly when combined with a quarterly planning cycle.  The transition from one year to the next is a point where many of us slow down a little and is a natural point in the calendar to review and plan.  This is why there are so many ‘what I learned last year’ and ‘my goals for the coming year’ style of blog and video posts.

Instead of one long post to mark the passing of 2017 and arrival of 2018 I will do a series of shorter posts focussed on one specific topic per post.  I may chunk it down even further and post about one aspect of what I’m learning about a topic….

Wait!  I think I just said I’m going to Work Out Loud on an ongoing basis.

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