Saturday, April 12, 2008

Journaling and ESL Students

Wanda Huber

This bibliography focuses on the generally accepted beliefs about reflective journaling practices as it pertains to adult learners in academic, professional, and tutoring environments with a special emphasis on ESL learners. It supports teachers and supervising teachers in understanding the benefits, concerns, obstacles, and implications for using various journaling styles to enhance ESL student abilities. When the listed article focuses directly on the benefits or problems of journaling or dialogue journaling practices without regard to ESL learners, the application of their knowledge is appropriate when broadly applied. All articles have gone through either a vetting process or are included in anthologies for the value of their contribution to this topic. Excluded from the list are articles dealing with children ESL learners in classroom settings.

Cisero, Cheryl A. "Does Relective Journal Writing Improve Course Performance?” College

Teaching. 54.2 (2006), 231-236. Sees journal writing practices as capable of enhancing critical thinking in many disciplines through active engagement, which research shows to be more effective that passive memorization (231). Adds the caveat that students need to be motivated to improve learning (233). Points to the practical benefits of journal writing such as offering learners the opportunity to make connections, to contextualize, to make sense of a concept or a subject beyond memorization, by questioning, admitting and working through confusion, and potentially changing ways of thinking (231). She sees practical benefits for students to improve grades. However, the results of the study imply that high achieving learners may not need to add a reflective practice to their learning methods (234). Argues that journal writing as a practice should be cultivated as a tool for lifelong learning (234). Learning that develops from cultivating “reflection, critical thinking, and meaningful learning (234).

English, Leona. “Ethical Concern Relating to Journal Writing.” Promoting Journal Writing in

Adult Education. Eds. Leona English and Marie Gillen. New Directions for Adult and

Continuing Educ. 90. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001. 27-35. Suggests ethical implications of journal writing in the classroom and learning environments should be actively interrogated. English sees journal writing practices as experimental—the integration of the personal and professional relationships often involved in journaling practices problematic. She suggests that the practice to often has been uncritically accepted (30). She advocates for caution when practicing journaling and suggests establishing clear guidelines for learner and respondent at the outset as the most important requirement in “establishing an ethical basis for teaching and learning” (31). Being aware of ethical concerns requires respondents to engage in their own reflective practices—not asking students to practice what they do not. She provides a listing and brief explanation of principles to abide by, supporting an ethical practice: respect, justice, beneficence, self-awareness, and caring.

Fenwick, Tara. “Responding to Journals in a Learning Process.” Promoting Journal Writing in

Adult Education. Eds. Leona English and Marie Gillen. New Directions for Adult and

Continuing Educ. 90. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001. 37-58. Outlines a general model for practicing journaling and dialogue journaling easily adaptable to many learning goals and environments, especially as it relates to adult and continuing education. Fenwick’s model emphasizes mutual respect in dialogue, characterized by helpful responses that can help writers clarify insights, provide new perspectives, and through probing questions or extending their thoughts through “ ‘feedforward’” comments. Fenwick argues that such comments do not put the writer and reader on equal discursive planes, as is the case in exchanging letters. Supportive responses focus on “the writer’s process and purposes instead of his or her own interests” (39). The model outlines three types of responders—peer, instructor, self—listing brief benefits and obstacles facing each. Fenwick outlines seven different types of roles respondents take: comforter, mirror, provoker, learning director, friend-in-dialogue, evaluator, biographer (“restorying the narrative”), and she argues that choosing the type of response depends on the journal’s purpose, writer’s intentions and needs, and relationship between writer and respodent (41). These considerations reinforce Fenwick’s point that responding to journals takes thought and consideration and requires a flexible mindset. She suggests allowing short multiple time frames for responses, too avoid the burn-out that many teachers experience when utilizing journals in the classroom.

Jarvis, Peter. “Journal Writing in Higher Education.” Promoting Journal Writing in Adult

Education. Eds. Leona English and Marie Gillen. New Directions for Adult and

Continuing Educ. 90. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001. 79-94. Makes connection between reflective writing and learning: reflection should include cognitive, attitudinal, and emotive dimensions Advocates reflective journaling in professional distance learning, mixed mode settings, and university settings (83). In the mixed mode setting, journaling can be used as a means to add important social element for improved reflection, thinking, and writing. Journaling is kept in a learning diary, the purpose of which is “to help students see how their own ideas are changing and developing. . .and to test their practice against the theoretical ideas. . .introduced” (82). Students record three types of entries: reading reflection, study habits, and attitudes. Combining learning diary activities with a study guide and textbooks proves particularly useful for ESL students learning Westernized modes of thinking and writing. Through their learning diaries, they are encouraged to try out the textbook theories in their journal and to reflect on whether they work within or outside of their value systems (82). Students are encouraged to not accept the textbook as one right way. The implication for ESL students is that whether or not their values parallel the textbook’s they are interacting with diverse modes of writing as a critic, leveling the sense of cultural dominance.

Argues that reflective writing is most important for teachers as a self-evaluative tool (80) and less as a managerial tool (85). Recognizes that time is an obstacle for utilizing the learning journal’s full potentials (85). Learning journal has implications for life-long learning endeavors.

Manton, Judy. “The Relationship Between Knowing our Students’ Real Needs and Effective

Teaching.” Adult ESL: Politics, Pedagogy, and Participation in Classroom and

Community Programs. Ed., Trudy Smoke. London: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1998. 41-54. Although Manton does not directly address journaling as a useful process for ESL students, she quotes a statement Jim Cummins made at a conference on ESL that relates to Norton’s argument: “Human Relations in the classroom are the foundation of the student’s learning” (42). This quote reinforces the general tone of most articles about effective practices: that mutual respect between teacher and student are essential in ESL classroom, but imperative in journal dialogues.

Mlynarczyk, Rebecca. “Fluency First in the ESL Classroom: an Integrated Approach. Adult ESL:

Politics, Pedagogy, and Participation in Classroom and Community Programs. Ed.

Trudy Smoke. London: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1998. 127-46. Journal use in the Fluency First program is integrated in classrooms as a tool to understand readings, to explore passages of interest, and to support the library research needed to produce the formal writing requirements. Because the model emphasizes student “independent investigations” journaling plays an important role (140). The first phase of program has proven to be foundation for students’ success (144). Key to model is recognizing the purpose of writing is communicating meaning. Students benefit from writing education that encourages students to create meaningful texts rather than copying or filling in the blanks of others texts (130). Journals are part of a holistic approach to writing that empowers students to be in control of their learning by “actively engaging in meaningful language use” (140). The journal is an integral part of students’ developing fluency and a basis for many classroom conversations. Although the journal is not graded it is presented to the teacher once a week and the issues addressed in journal discussed (132). A tangentially related aspect of the fluency phase is the requirement that student complete five pages a week toward a book, memoir and autobiography are often common choices.

Norton, Bonnie. “Using Journals in Second Language Research and Teaching.” Adult ESL:

Politics, Pedagogy, and Participation in Classroom and Community Programs. Ed.

Trudy Smoke. London: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1998. 55-72. Norton’s study of five adult women immigrants in Ontario, Canada, who kept diaries in English about their experiences speaking and writing English, concludes that journal use is an accessible resource for ESL writers and teachers. The writers in her six-month study, located in the researchers home, gained confidence using English in their personal lives, which allowed for more practice with the language and thus more issues to write about, more to discuss during the study sessions. The increased social interactions directly affected the quality and quantity of writing (63). Norton equates quality with the increased complexity in content of journals, not improved grammar, punctuation, and/or vocabulary (63). However, she suggests that teachers develop pedagogy out of journal entries such as grammar workshops (69) She supports journaling in the ESL classroom setting, suggesting that teachers frame the content or purpose of journal entries and insists there should be no “right or wrong way” of recording those experiences (69). Key to the success of journal use are topics learners invested in, encouragement, opportunity to share (69).

Orem, Richard. “Journal Writing in Adult ESL: Improving Practice through Reflective Writing.”

Promoting Journal Writing in Adult Education. New Directions for Adult and Continuing

Educ. 90. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001. 79-94. Points to the uses and benefits of journaling for ESL teachers and students. Believes keeping such a journal is essential as a support for ESL teachers today who are generally “unprepared, marginalized, and isolated” (70). Describes such a teaching journal as a series of observations and responses to teaching transactions (80) for the purpose of engaging in “action research,” an active answer seeking process to educator’s problems (73).

Generalizes three types of student journaling by goal: learning language structure, improving communication skills, or for developing self-empowerment. With a goal of learning structure, journaling is used most typically in an academic setting as an opportunity to practice correct usage with teachers focusing on error correction. Even when journals emphasize language structure, Orem implicitly recommends using journals as teacher-student dialogue, suggesting teachers’ offer feedback on students’ improvement (73). The communicative approach is the most widely applied approach to teaching ESL, emphasizing writing for communication, a constructivist approach (74). In classrooms emphasizing communicative approaches, meaning is more important than structure. Orem recommends an interactive form of journaling for this environment because an understanding of audience is important. Dialogue journaling, where there exists a conversation between teacher and student recommended, in the hope of simulating communicative realistic communicative exchanges (74). If journals are assessed, teachers often assess journals for content only (74). The participatory approach to teaching ESL, emphasizes students’ self-empowerment to which journals supply the context of the conversation (75). Orem quotes Auerbach’s characterization of this classroom environment: between teacher and student is important key to success. Anticipates journaling practice in lifelong learning through self-reflection on practice.

Shin, Sarah. “Learning to Teach Writing through Tutoring and Journal Writing.” Teachers and

Teaching: Theory and Practice 12.3 (2006). 325-45. As a result of her case study, Shin advocates ESL pre-service teachers to be involved supervised reflective writing practice where they gain ESL tutoring experiences with a related methods course (343). When student teachers reflect in a journaling format upon their tutoring sessions, what they learned, and imagine what they could have done differently, they gain the opportunity to examine critically the different ways in which ESL learners build their writing skills. It also provides the supervising teacher the opportunity to address specific issues that arise such as how to handle recurrent grammar questions. Because recurrent grammar issues often reflect particular language learners, such customized training benefits all involved. Supervising address cultural difficulties such as older Korean men not wanting to be tutored by a young female, giving the student teacher resources for developing their own ESL pedagogical philosophies. Shin does address specifically common issues student teachers addressed. For the supervising teacher, time was the only obstacle faced.

Weissberg, Robert. Connecting Speaking & Writing in Second Language Writing Instruction.

Eds. Diane Belcher and Jun Liu. Michigan Ser. Teaching Multilingual Writers. Ann

Arbor, MI: U of Michigan P, 2007. Journaling is an appropriate activity for L2 learners even with minimal orality because provides a means for writers to try on writing in a style that they are comfortable with. This process becomes more beneficial to the learner when a dialectic or social interchange occur (132). Weissberg promotes the idea that students need to have a space to develop their written voices that originates in the oral: students’ natural (i.e., speaking) voice is a legitimate platform from which to launch into academic writing and that expressive writing activities, such as journaling and free-writing, which tap the writer’s spoken language, are legitimate tools for helping students bootstrap their way into more formal written registers” (132).

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