THE ASSESSED REFLECTIVE LEARNING JOURNAL: IS IT A TRUE REFLECTION OF THE STUDENTS' LEARNING JOURNEY?
University College Cork (IRELAND)
About this paper:
Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract:Much of what has been written around the issue of reflective writing agrees on the point that assessment can have an adverse effect on the quality of reflection. Creme (2005, 292) asserted that the majority of students writing records of study … insisted that they were for themselves and that if they were assessed their value to themselves as writer would be lost. However she identifies a conundrum when she goes on to state that contradicting this, many agreed that they might not have written them if no one was going to read them.
The BA in World Languages is a new four-year programme in University College Cork, which welcomed its first intake of students in 2014. The Degree aims to produce graduates with sought-after language skills, as well as an understanding of language as a system and of the cultures of the languages studied. Students take courses in a range of languages, together with dedicated content (eg language structures, translation theory/practice, digital skills, English as a foreign language). Students study three of the languages offered: Chinese, English, French, Irish, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Portuguese and Spanish.
WL1102 Language Learning Strategies is a first year module which students take in the first semester and which is taught by staff from the various language departments, with each making its own contribution based on an area of expertise it is known to excel in: eg. approaches to learning; the reflective learning journal; the ECML; organisational skills; language learning resources; vocabulary/grammar acquisition. Irish, has responsibility for the reflective journal. The module is 100% continuous assessment with the learning journal comprising 50%.
Following an initial series of workshops on writing a reflective learning journal, students are divided into groups of between 10 and 12 and a tutor assigned to each group. Over an eight week period each student must make one substantial entry to their learning journal via Blackboard's journal tool. This is read by their tutor who gives feedback; students are encouraged to respond to the feedback. Students are free to choose the topic to reflect upon, but are asked to focus on three dimensions in their entries: awareness, evaluation, and regulation. This being the students' first exposure to reflective writing, assessment is based on their engagement with the journal rather than on the content.
An initial analysis of the journals has determined six themes: College Life; Learning; Languages; Assessment; Culture; the Journal itself. A deeper analysis is seeking commonalities in the students' reflections on each theme and the degree to which they succeeded in focusing on the three dimensions in each one.
Ultimately the paper will evaluate the extent to which the assessment of the reflective journals within the virtual environment has led to an improved learning experience. The paper will incorporate the results of a survey carried out across all students who have taken the module since 2014 with the purpose of determining:
• do they consider the journal influenced their learning;
• do they feel the assessment process was a positive or negative influence;
• are they still engaged in reflective writing;
• would they have liked to continue with an assessed journal;
• to what extent did the electronic medium contribute to the exercise.
 Phyllis Creme (2005) Should student learning journals be assessed?, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education.
Keywords: Languages, Irish, Learning Journal, Assessment, Reflective Learning, Virtual Environment, e-learning.