Journals are a place for us to record and collect our thoughts and feelings over time. These written records allow us to think “out-loud” by putting our thoughts into words. Typically, we associate journaling with writing about our day or venting our feelings. However, journals are far more versatile than that and can be a powerful tool for students. This article aims to introduce you to different journaling practises that can make you a better student.
If you want to go from a passive to an active learner and engage more deeply with your course content, you can start a learning journal. While this might sound like something used to track a child’s learning development, learning journals are often used in clinical disciplines. Why? Research has shown journal writing can improve our ability to reflect and think critically. Moreover, this practise can help us to write more concisely and form better arguments. However, these benefits are not limited to clinical disciplines. Journaling can help you form connections between your knowledge and experiences over time. By actively engaging with the information you learn, thinking deeply, and trying to relate this to the knowledge you already have, you’ll in turn consolidate the information better.
For example, in this study, marketing students that completed a learning journal scored significantly higher on their exams, compared to those who were not assigned the learning journal task. Additionally, it was noted that students’ writing improved and in turn, their quality of work for the course overall. These students reported feeling more engaged with the material they learned, reading over the course materials more regularly, and found themselves thinking deeply about their course content. It might require some creativity and discipline to apply this practise to your own learning, but it’s definitely worthwhile. Particularly, during this time of remote learning, a practise like this can give you a space to connect with what you learn, and help you develop as a student. For more learning journal guidance, check out the links above and these two articles: 20 Types of Learning Journals and The Importance of Student Journals.
However, we are more than mere learning machines. You can also use journaling to improve your well-being. It can be difficult to study when your mind is clouded by thoughts, or you aren’t feeling so great. A journal can be a good place to vent your worries or frustrations. Or, on a more positive note, a place for you to reflect on good memories, positive experiences, and practise gratitude. Your journal can be a creative and therapeutic outlet that helps you to maintain your motivation to study, and deal with how you’re feeling. It might encourage you to spend time with yourself, and reflect on your journey over time. If you’re not sure where to start, here are 30 Journal Prompts to get you started.
Additionally, journals can be used as a tool to organise your time and achieve your goals. You can take planning to the next step by writing about your goals, and reviewing your progress (daily, weekly or monthly). For example, Bullet Journaling (BuJo) is a method that encourages us to lead more intentional lives with the slogan “Track Your Past, Order Your Present and Plan Your Future”. The BuJo can be tailored to your needs and gives you the flexibility to focus on what matters to you. As a student, you can use a journal to track progress on assignments, or study goals, and reflect on how you’re progressing each week. This can provide you with a sense of responsibility and connection to your studies. In turn, you might feel more motivated to actively engage with your course and acquire the sense that you're progressing daily or weekly.
Finally, journaling is not a practise that is limited to pen and paper. You can start a learning blog, or use various apps or software to create digital journals, whether this is for your wellbeing, productivity, or both. Experiment and find what works for you. Journaling is a personal practise that you can develop and refine over time, particular to your own wants and needs.