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Guidelines for Journal Writing

As part of your learning experience in this course you are being asked to keep a learning journal.
This journal also constitutes a percentage of your grade for the course. The following set of
guidelines is provided to help you with this experience.
General Comments
Choosing a good topic is essential. Select an experience that relates to the assigned course topics.
You may choose a non-class related experience that you would like to understand better (e.g.,
there was something about it that you so not totally understand, that intrigues you, that made you
realize that you lack certain skills, or that was problematic or significant for you) or write about
your in-class experience. If you choose an experience from outside of class, it does not have to
be work related; an incident in any setting (sports teams, family, club, church, etc.) that relates to
course topics is acceptable
Journal Elements
Concrete Experience
In this section of your journal entry, briefly describe what happens in the experience. These
descriptions should contain both objective and subjective components. The objective part should
present the facts of the experience, like a newspaper account, without an attempt to analyze the
content. In other words, the objective part should describe the who, what, when, where, and how
of the experience. The subjective component should describe the feelings, perceptions and
thoughts you experienced during the event.
Helpful hints: (1) Replay the experience in your mind. After reviewing the experience, write a
report of what you saw, heard, felt, and thought as well as what you heard and saw others doing.
(2) Avoid presenting the detailed mechanics of the experience unless they are critical to the
remainder of the paper. This section should be no more than 2 or 3 paragraphs long. (3) Avoid
reporting feelings and thoughts you experienced after the event being described. This type of
retrospection is more appropriate in the reflective observation section.
Reflective Observation
In this section of your journal entry, ask yourself "What did I observed in this experience and
what possible meanings could these observations have?" The key task in this section is to gather
as many observations as possible by looking at the experience from different points of view. This
exercise will help you to become skilled in "perspective taking' or "re-framing." Try to look at
this experience and describe it from different perspectives. For example, how did other
participants view the situation and what did it mean to them? What would a neutral observer
have seen and heard? Now that you are older, do you see the situation differently? What

perspective did your parents have, if any? Look beneath the surface and try to explain why the
people involved behaved they did.
Helpful hints: (1) Discuss the experience with others to gain their views and clarify their
perceptions. (2) "Unhook" yourself from the experience and meditate (think) about it in a relaxed
atmosphere. Mull over your observations until their personal meaning comes clear to you. Try to
figure out why people, and you in particular, behaved as they did. What can you learn about
yourself, looking back on the experience? If you write about a conflict or interaction, be sure to
analyze both sides and put yourself in the shoes of the other people involved.
Abstract Conceptualization
In this section of your journal entry, relate assigned readings, lectures, (other readings are
acceptable if you provide references for the instructor) to what you experienced. This process
will help you link theories and concepts discussed in class to real life situations. While some
assigned readings will have varying degrees of relevance to your experience, it is important that
you make several references and not just limit your conceptualizations to just one source. Use at
least (and preferably) one concept or theory from the readings. Provide the source for each
course reference in the following manner: (textbook, p. 31). If you use a reference from outside
of the course, please provide the following: the author(s), year of publication, title, and page
number(s). This will help the instructor in his own experiential learning.
By reviewing theoretical material, you should be able to identify specific theories or concepts
that relate to your experience. First, briefly define the concept or theory that relate to your
experience as you would for someone not familiar with it. Next, apply the concept thoroughly to
your experience. Does the experience support or refute the theory? Avoid merely providing a
book report of what you have read. You should discuss in some detail how you see concepts and
theories relating to your experiences.
Helpful hints: (1) It is sometimes useful to identify theoretical concepts first and then search out
and elaborate on an experience that relates to the concepts. (2) A slightly more difficult approach
is to reverse the above procedure and search out those concepts that apply to your experience.
Active Experimentation
In this section of your journal entry, summarize the practical lessons you have learned and the
action steps you will take to be more effective in the future. These ideas can be stated in the form
of rules of thumb or action resolutions. (Future actions must be based on the experience reported
in Concrete Experience and linked to the theories and concepts discussed in Abstract
Conceptualization.) You should elaborate in adequate detail how you see your action plans
being carried out. Be specific and thorough. Include at least one action resolution that is based
upon new knowledge that you gained about yourself as a result of writing the paper. Present at
least two things that you have learned and a well-thought out description of how you will apply
them in the future. For example, if you were to relive the experience, what would you do
differently? If you were the manager in the story, what would you do differently? Based on the

insight you've gained about yourself and others, how would you handle a similar situation in the
future?
Helpful hints: (1) Project a future experience in which you envision the implementation of your
ideas and then elaborate on that experience as a way of demonstrating how your actions will be
carried out. (2) Where does this model exist in your life (home, work, school)? Do you need a
support system to make it happen? Someone to "contract" with? (3) Try to imagine the final
results of your experimentation. What will it be like if you accomplish what you want to do?
Integration and Synthesis
Well written journal entries have a focal issue and story line with themes that are carried
throughout each of the four sections. The idea of synergy ("The whole is greater than the sum of
its parts") applies here. If integration is present, then the reader can attend to the content without
distraction; if integration is absent, it is difficult for the reader to have a full appreciation of the
content.
Other barriers that prevent the reader from fully appreciating the paper's content are spelling and
grammatical errors. Since good writing skills are important in practically all types of work, there
should be no errors in your journals.
Helpful hints: (1) Integration is largely a matter of good writing skills. When writing journal
entries, keep in mind the following points:
1.

Decide what one or two main points you wish to convey and make sure that you
do.

2.

Label each section: Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation, etc.

3.

Transitions are important (between sentences, paragraphs, and sections) and make
the paper flow.

4.

The four sections should be equally well developed and fairly similar in length.