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Snapshot 11: Reflective journals

This snapshot describes how a teacher greatly enhanced the effectiveness of her feedback by introducing her students to the use of reflective journals.


A couple of years ago I went to an Auckland Association for Teachers of English Language (AATEL) workshop where Jennifer Glenn (Thames High School) was talking about her research into and experiences using reflective journals with students.

A light went on for me when she described how teachers spend a great deal of time providing detailed feedback at the foot of pages, where it remains, never to be looked at again. I sat there thinking, “Yep, that is my year 13 class that you are talking about.”

Read more: BES Exemplar 5 describes Jennifer’s research into the use of learning logs in a format that teachers can use for their own or departmental professional learning.

Curriculum focus


  • 8


  • Providing feedback and feed forward

Teacher action

At that time, I had some essays that my students had already submitted. I decided to start my experiment immediately, with these essays. Instead of writing all over the essays, I glued each one into a 1B5 exercise book and wrote comments at the end. I then returned the book to the student, who read my comments and wrote in their own words what they thought I had said, plus a goal for their next essay.

What happened?

Very quickly, I started to become aware of things that I had previously not noticed; for example, there was the student who didn’t know how to paragraph accurately. Both she and I realised that she needed some teaching on this point.

Then there was the student who was able to turn a particular idea relating to the narrative point of view in the novel into an interesting thesis. She gained excellence in the external assessment at the end of the year.

The other really positive thing for me was entering into dialogue with students who were reluctant to speak up in class but comfortable with asking questions or making comments in their reflective journal. I wish I had copies of the journals, but the students all took them away and used them as a study tool when preparing for end-of-year examinations.

Last updated July 17, 2012