Formats of Journal Reflection

Initial Publication Date: November 30, 2010
Journal entries provide students opportunities to link classroom material with their service experiences. A wide variety of journal exercises can be used to promote critical reflection. Some formats such as the personal or dialogue journal are unguided and give students more freedom to respond to their experiences; other formats (key phrase, three-part, ) provide more guidance for reflection.

Personal Journal

Students will write freely about their experience. This is usually done weekly. These personal journals may be submitted periodically to the instructor, or kept as a reference to use at the end of the experience when putting together an academic essay reflecting their experience. (Hatcher,1996)

Dialogue Journal

This format creates an ongoing dialogue between student and instructor throughout the course. Students submit loose-leaf pages from a dialogue journal bi-weekly (or otherwise at appropriate intervals) for the instructor to read and comment on. While labor intensive for the instructor, this can provide continual feedback to the students (formative evaluation) and prompt new questions for students to consider during the semester. (Goldsmith, 1995)

Highlighted Journal

Before students submit the reflected journal, they reread personal entries and,using a highlighter, mark sections of the journal that directly relate to concepts discussed in the text or in class. This makes it easier for the instructor to identify course content and encourage the student to reflect on their experience in light of course content. (Gary Hesser, Augsberg College)

Key Phrase Journal

In this type of journal, students are asked to integrate terms and key phrases within their journal entries. The instructor can provide a list of terms at the beginning of the semester or for a certain portion of the text. Students could also create their own list of key phrases to include. Journal entries are written within the framework of the course content and become an observation of how course content is evident in the service experience. (Hatcher, 1996)

Double-Entry Journal

When using a double-entry journal, students are asked to write one-page entries each week: Students describe their personal thoughts and reactions to the service experience on the left page of the journal, and write about key issues from class discussions or readings on the right page of the journal. Students then draw arrows indicating relationships between their personal experiences and course content. This type of journal is a compilation of personal data and a summary of course content in preparation of a more formal reflection paper at the end of the semester. (Angelo and Cross, 1993)

Critical Incident Journal

This type of journal entry focuses the student on analysis of a particular event that occurred during the week. By answering one of the following sets of prompts, students are asked to consider their thoughts and reactions and articulate the action they plan to take in the future:
  • Describe a significant event that occurred as a part of the service-learning experience. Why was this significant to you? What underlying issues (societal, interpersonal) surfaced as a result of this experience? How will this incident influence your future behavior?
  • Describe an incident or situation that created a dilemma for you in terms of what to say or do. What is the first thing thought of to say or do? List three other actions you might have taken, Which of the above seems best to you now and why do you think this is the best response? (Hatcher, 1996)
Three-Part Journal

Students are asked to divide each page of their journal into thirds, and write weekly entries during the semester. In the top section, students describe some aspect of the service experience. In the middle of the page, they are asked to analyze how course content relates to the service experience. And finally, an application section prompts students to comment on how the experience and course content can be applied to their personal or professional life. (Bringle and Hatcher, 1999)