Reflective Journaling: An Autoethnographic Experience

Kashiraj Pandey
Reflective writing, or what I rather call journaling, empowers us to creatively and expressively portray who we are and what we experience. By challenging ourselves to be honest and to put our voices on paper, we cannot help but disrupt old patterns and beliefs. Anybody who may be present or absent in any given context is creative and it is all about whether or not we document our creativity that comes as a product of the interaction with the world around us which readily boosts confidence and cross cultural understanding for our overall transformation.
To me writing works as craft while not worrying on the meaning as we prefer to leave readers to make their own meanings that anyway keep changing according to social-temporal contexts. As response to our regular teaching learning activities, the teachers of English at the Department of Languages and Mass Communication are regularizing the practice of journaling with students since 2005. As a teacher and also the reflective practitioner, I always step into each classroom once a week, divide students into groups, facilitate the class while students in turn discuss the subject matter. With my frequent moderation and facilitation, I could see that more learning is taking place than just my teaching. According to the individual understanding, all students reflect through writing in journal, the outcome.
Maintaining a journal has helped us realize creativity as a plant growing in newer and more beautiful interweave every day making ourselves fresh and new. Thinking many might fail to do so not getting conducive environment, we encourage the students to explore their creativity that was seen in different levels in and outside the classroom. Based in our experience at Kathmandu University, as we start the semester with a set of instructions about using journals in the classroom, as Young (1999) suggests “that journals are valuable not just busy work, they are used daily as students and teacher build the knowledge of course” (p. 18), I like to propose some steps as guidelines in the beginning of each semester-group students. 

First, to ask students buy a No. 3 Register. Secondly, to make them clear on the language of the journal, in our case it should be English as mentioned in the prescribed text book, “unless told otherwise, in this class we shall use only English, even in conversations among students before, during, and after class” (Lohani & Nissani, 2008, p. 9 ). Thirdly, to monitor, facilitate, collect, and read the journal on a regular basis. Then, encouraging them to write about a wide variety of topics of their choice as free writing with a theme that has link to the text discussed in the class, we can ask students to leave a blank space between entries for room to comment later. This process holds significant place in learning through creating individual stories and poems when all the students write something during and after the class time. Finally, we can look for ways to share the journals between and among students. To ensure that the students understood the connection between the theory in the lectures (and readings), and the practice in real life; we do practice reflective journal writing in the classroom among assigning a series of questions each week to help students make connections between the lecture and the textbooks, and what learning really meant to them. Done honestly, writing neatens what affects us and who really we are. When the students are able to develop friendship with literary texts and make these texts part of their life and develop enthusiasm to decipher more and more texts from the works of imagination, their communication strength empowers and there meets the objectives of learning in the courses on technical communication for students of Media Studies, Science, and Engineering. As students start to find meaning in the texts in relation to their lives, it strengthens their reading habit, “in order to develop as a writer, one must be a reader” (Colonna & Gilbert, 2006, p. v), therefore helps them in vocabulary expansion, communication, production, presentation, and in overall level of understanding linking with background concept for writing, the reflective practice of journaling.

Even before one actually sits and writes, the most important thing I remember is that it makes us read and read, explore new worlds, new minds, and new avenues. In our case, English as language is used most effectively at its idiomatic best in literary texts as to enhance the students’ competence in creativity thus leading to their overall transformation most effectively. A good introduction to literature can compensate for the deficiencies of linguistic approach in the area of grammar, vocabulary and syntax that can enhance the students’ competence in creativity. Writing provides the students abundant practice with examples of the subtle and complex uses of grammar and vocabulary of a language. We all perform pretty well and in almost the same way in our subject matter, more specifically in the particular area of Science and Engineering, but what makes us different is our better skills in communication, may it be verbal or non-verbal, thereby we hunt the job, and lead the market.

Hiemstra (2001) puts “Journaling in its various forms is a means for recording personal thoughts, daily experiences, and evolving insights” (p. 20). In this regard, honoring the past in our own words with our own uncensored reflections, we document our memories before they are lost. This reflective process often evokes conversations with self and a real or even an imagined other person making the practitioners able to review or reread the earlier reflections with a progressive clarification of possible insights. Even with the sufficient use and attempts by the educators to encourage personal reflection in various ways, journaling still remains underused as a teaching or learning tool. My continuous effort to bolster creativity from the students’ side where the teacher merely facilitates or just positively motivates students to think with different thoughts to explore and explore has brought more creative writers from various disciplines who are more interdisciplinary in fact.
In the past thirty years friendship with Literature, and during my seven year journey at the Kathmandu University, discussing literary texts every semester, I along with my students have reached in such a state that I hardly find difference between myself (ourselves) and the authors. In the process of producing reflective understanding, I saw how the classroom became interactive time and again as the teaching and learning activity happened at the same time and product was seen in the form of individual journaling. Instead of one way, the learning happens in multiple levels, a differently depicted world produced by multiple discourses not only to deconstruct the accepted social categories, but also in believing multiple truths where our personal stories are set in cultural contexts.
As part of my own reflective journaling and along with the students, I have also created many stories, poems, and essays. While comparing to the first day of this teachering career, as I reflect I feel different now. I am different in the sense that because of reflection and assimilation, I have come to realize many defaults in my way of teaching, dealing, and evaluating the students that led me to make changes accordingly. I have gained confidence in making presentations in more effective ways. I have become more tolerant and respectful to the self and “other” cultural/ ideological differences. Moreover, this autoethnographic mode of inquiry led me to realize and reflect so much that my suppressed agonies, confusions, regrets, contempt, timidity, all got a platform to flourish into humility. Journaling, the product of reflective thinking has helped the students and me to improve our language skills once we passed through all (given) rigorous activities. Accordingly, I believe there are a number of potential benefits for learners in maintaining journal in a writing class. For example, students achieve enhanced intellectual growth and development especially as they gain more experience with the writing based on their lived experiences.
Colonna, M. & Gilbert, J. (2006). Reason to write. London: Oxford.
Hiemstra, R. (2001). Uses and benefits of journal writing. In L. M. English & M. A.

Gillen, (Eds.), Promoting journal writing in adult education (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, No. 90, pp. 19-26). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Lohani, S. & Nissani, M. (Eds.). (2008). Flax golden tales. Kathmandu: Ekta.
Young, A. (1999). Teaching writing across the curriculum (3rd ed.). NJ: Prentice Hall.
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