How learning journals can improve the quality of both teaching and learning
As Horace said: “What’s well begun is half done.”
Good planning is the core of doing a task well. Similarly, keeping records of a task is also important for the next courses of action. It helps us analyze what went well and what did not, how it could be done differently, and what changes need to take place to enable different individuals to do the same task.
This article examines the importance of maintaining learning journals for an elementary classroom.
Planning for lessons
The preparation of a lesson plan is one of the most important jobs for school teachers. A lesson plan constitutes the objectives of a lesson, anticipated learning outcomes, teaching strategies, determining teaching-learning materials, assessment procedure of learning outcomes, etc.
The lesson plan needs to be prepared well ahead of time before delivering the lesson.
It’s all a process
Usually, teaching and learning mainly takes place using some predominant strategies and methodologies based on the theories of educationists, social scientists, and philosophers established over a period, carrying out hundreds and thousands of researches around the globe.
Teachers have been practicing those teaching techniques and methodologies to deliver lessons since long ago. There have been changes, adaptation, and improvisation in teaching techniques and methodologies as well to handle the changes and evolution happening around the world. ICT-based education is a good example in this regard.
Which instructional method is “right” for a particular lesson depends on a number of conditions, eg students’ age, their developmental level, students’ prior knowledge of contents, students’ need to succeed with the lesson, objectives of the lesson, time, spaces, material resources, and physical settings of classroom.
However, the selection of an instructional method is mostly based on a teacher’s particular teaching style and the lesson situation. There is no one “right” method for teaching a particular lesson, but there are some criteria that pertain to each that can help a teacher make the best decision.
There is a saying that teaching shaped by a teacher’s experience is the best teaching method. It is important for educators to understand the differences in their students’ learning styles, so that they can implement the best strategies into their daily teaching-learning activities. In order to set relevant learning strategies and make those strategies more effective, teachers need to look into those conditions and factors.
Along with lesson delivery, teachers use different forms of learning assessment to make teaching and learning more effective, and to take classes that are more impactful. Learning assessment is a process, which provides information on what particular knowledge (cognitive), skill, or behaviour (affective) students are gaining when learning takes place, or what they have gained after instruction is complete.
Learning assessment provides us with evidence of how well the students have learned what we intend them to learn. In terms of purpose, time, and nature, there are three types of assessment: Diagnostic assessment, formative assessment, and summative assessment.
Usually, people mainly consider summative assessment as important, which takes place at the end of a course (ie terminal examination). It is mostly a paper-based test. Most of the terminal examination reflects only knowledge and comprehension of the cognitive learning domain.
Testing of the remaining levels of cognitive domain, eg application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation are occasional through pen and paper-based examination. Testing of affective and psychomotor domain is surprisingly absent in the summative assessment.
All the periodical and terminal examinations mostly test students’ knowledge and memorizing ability. There are no attitudinal, behavioural, psychosocial tests for the students, and no practical tests for students’ scientific and mathematical skills.
Therefore, I think teachers need to emphasize on formative assessment that occurs during the course of a unit of study, thereby determining a student’s knowledge and skills, as well as learning gaps as they progress through a unit of study.
Formative assessments help teachers to gather information to plan and modify teaching and learning strategies for an individual student, group of students, and the class as a whole.
A learning journal
It is very important to prepare lesson plans prior to the lesson delivery to make teaching and learning more guided and effective, but it is also important for the teachers to do their own reflections based on the experiences that they obtain from their classrooms.
Self-reflection is essential for shaping relevant teaching strategies in every next-day classroom situation, and it might be useful for them to determine other actions required. In doing self-reflection, a teacher can revisit his/her lesson plan, teaching-learning process and learning assessment through following specific points, like relevance of the lesson plan, effectiveness of methodologies, level of student participation, and things that went well and things that did not.
Teachers should take records of their experiences and reflections for further planning of their next lesson. A well-structured documentation of those experiences help teachers to set the next learning strategies, generate the teaching learning process, and guide them in setting learners’ assessment procedure in the classroom context.
Maintaining a learning journal based on the classroom teaching and learning experience could be one of the best ways to do so.
A learning journal is a collection of notes, observations, thoughts and other relevant materials compiled over a period and may be a result of a period of study, learning and/or working experience. There are perhaps many ways of maintaining a journal eg personal diary, log sheet, self-reflection notes etc.
If a teacher preserves a learning journal on a regular basis and ensure its proper application, he or she will be one-step ahead in improving quality teaching and learning in the classroom.
Abdul Moktader Mamoon is Project Director, Second Chance Education (SHIKHON), Save the Children in Bangladesh.