Reflective journaling and its learning effects

Published: October 15, 2021

At Learna, we strive to ensure our students have a fully immersive experience, allowing them to gain the skills and knowledge needed to pursue their specialties.

As a part of this, all of our programmes (MBA/MSc/PGDip) include being tasked to complete a reflective journal, which holds a 10% weighting regarding their final grade.

In this blog, we explain the significance of this method of learning that healthcare professionals can continue into their daily practice.

Whilst it is possible to label the method of reflection within academia as a modern trend, it is quite the opposite; in fact, the importance of critical reflection has been acknowledged since 500 BC, by the great Confucius himself:
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

At Learna, we employ reflective journaling to ensure the optimum student experience and effective utilisation of our educational resources, whereby students turn their online educational experience into meaningful, personalised, and sophisticated learning. We believe that developing reflection provides students the opportunity to examine course-related issues, and, in doing so, potentially identify similar events within their current practice; this reinforces the personal and professional capacity of reflection.

Reflection also provides a pathway to change, whereby issues that medical professionals confront in their lives, when reflected upon, can lead to subsequent modifications in behaviour. Therefore, when related issues occur in the future, more favourable outcomes may arise; this is not dissimilar to the “Kaizen” methodology of continuous improvement. We urge our healthcare students to consider how they could challenge their own assumptions, identify their areas of weakness, and take action to convert them into strengths. The ability to reflect on ones work will become a daily part of their professional lives and can become a critical part of their success in their chosen healtcare specialty.

Today, continuous scrutiny is the norm, where fear of failure is omnipresent. However, there are no right or wrong answers within the reflective journal; success is established through the personal journey to self-awareness that students undertake throughout.

To ensure the nature of this assessment is clear to all, we provide a structured framework to which they can refer, enabling them to reflect in a manner that is simple to illustrate within the journal. Students have three possible structures for their reflective writing: The Critical Instant Report, Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle, and Borton’s Framework. All three of the aforementioned structures offer models for reflection in an unambiguous manner, allowing students to focus on the critical content of their journal, as opposed to its formatting.

This has proven to be an invaluable tool for our students:
“Through this course, I was introduced to reflective practice, both as a component of the course and as part of the content. This has clearly been the game changer in my leadership journey! I have now incorporated this practice as part of self-evaluation as a leader in healthcare”

“Through regular reflection, I am able to track my leadership journey, mapping my key achievements and challenges. Although I had engaged in this practice before, the reflective journal entries allowed me to adopt a structured approach to the exercise. This enables me to carefully evaluate and analyse situations in retrospect and plan for future situations.”

We do not expect the thoughts within these journals to be set in stone, unchanged over time; in fact, we positively encourage and welcome change throughout the process. The extent of development can only be seen if records have been made throughout the student’s journey, from its outset to its conclusion.

For all of us striving to build a better world for ourselves and others; reflective, and effective practice, is essential in achieving this.

Learn more about our vast range of healthcare courses.

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