How to make engaging learning journals for students
Learning journals are a powerful teaching tool. Find out what a learning journal is and how it actively supports your students in their learning journey.
When it comes to learning, whether it’s for personal or professional development, both students and teachers are constantly looking for ways to make the experience more impactful and relevant. One tool that’s become very popular in the pedagogical field over the last decade is the learning journal. Learning journals provide a unique opportunity to help students actively dig deeper into course materials using reflection and reinforcement.
This post will help explain the ins and outs of learning journals, and how to use them to bring learning to life. We’ll answer questions like:
- What is a learning journal?
- What should a learning journal look like?
- What does a learning journal contain?
- How is a learning journal structured?
Plus, we’ll provide some bonus prompts to help you get started.
What is a learning journal?
A learning journal, sometimes called a reflective journal, is a learning tool for students that’s meant to encourage reflection and the internalization of subject matter. It’s a steadily growing document that learners use to record the progress of their learning and how they’re engaging with it.
How does a learning journal work?
Learning journals provide a space for learners to reflect on what they’ve covered and take notes over the course of their program. The overarching premise is that by integrating reflection questions with course content, learners can process their learning experience and consider how they’ll apply what they’ve learned.
At the heart of it, a learning journal is a workbook that acts as a resource they can continue to refer to after the course is done and continuously engage with the learnings. That’s partly why digital workbooks like Wobo make such great platforms for learning journals. They allow learners to pick up where they’ve left off and revisit it over the course of many sessions. Learning journals may also be used to share ideas with other learners or reflect on their learning experience with a mentor or teacher, something that a solution like Wobo enables while keeping privacy and security at the forefront.
Why should you provide learning journals to your students?
While learning journals can definitely be used to summarize the information at hand, they’re not meant to be used strictly for note-taking. What makes learning journals especially compelling and useful as a learning tool is that the process of writing is about active learning. Writing is done for the sake of learning, rather than for the purpose of demonstrating knowledge acquisition.
By providing your students with digital learning journals, you can empower them to enhance their learning, make deeper connections to the information, and build upon their knowledge over time. Wobo’s digital workbooks allow you to play with form to create an engaging experience. Encourage self-reflection with open-ended questions and keep things interesting with different input types like checkboxes, long form responses, checklists, tables, ranking scales, and fun mad lib-style fields to take pulse checks and assess understanding of the materials.
What should a learning journal look like?
There are no rules when it comes to what a learning journal should look like, but it should be visually appealing (in the 2020s, there is no excuse for an ugly or boring workbook).
The way you set it up might be different for different types of courses or training sessions. As long as it encourages reflection and furthers the learning, a learning journal can take any format. That said, there are a few common components that you can use to create digital workbook learning journals for your students.
What does a learning journal contain?
At their most basic level, learning journals contain questions that incite thoughtfulness and probe a learner’s understanding of the application of their learnings. That means open-ended questions about the content and links to extra learning materials for the students to interact with and respond to, applying their newfound knowledge.
How to create a learning journal
First, you’ll want to consider when the learning journal should be leveraged by your students: before, during, and/or after the training.
Before the class
Learning journals can be helpful for setting the tone for your courses or training sessions. You can use the learning journal as a home for pre-course activities like short articles or recommended readings, thought-provoking questions with long form answer spaces to help get the wheels turning before day one, or to provide case studies to consider before things kick off.
During the course
A learning journal can provide a place to write notes and enter information from breakout activities during the training. After each module, you can give learners the space to reflect on what they’ve covered and how they can use it in their lives. In multi-session courses, learning journals also serve as a tool to connect content and themes from one session to the next.
After the fact
Learning doesn’t stop when the course ends. After the course has wrapped up, learning journals serve as a resource for additional information, encourage reflection, and perhaps a conversation guide to complete with a teacher, manager, or mentor. Wobo’s digital workbooks allow for sharing and visibility between the student, instructor, and the instructor's invited team members in real time, and can be downloaded as PDFs to refer to down the road. Workbooks can not be seen by other students within the same group, ensuring privacy and encouraging vulnerability and candid self-reflection.
How is a learning journal structured?
When you are fleshing out your learning journal for your students, a popular way to structure the journal is to include a long-form response area for students to dig deep into the learnings, responding in three parts.
At the end of a module, provide a space for students to:
- Summarize their key reflections
- Explain the learning and relate it to prior knowledge
- Explain the significance and implications of the reflections, answering big picture questions like ‘what does this mean for your future?’ or ‘what has this changed for you?’
For multi-session courses programs, organize learning journals with a section for each week, including a section for a weekly summary. By using a Wobo workbook for a learning journal, students can pick up right where they left off, letting the information snowball with every journal update, then download the PDF to keep a copy for future reference.
Prompts to include in a reflective journal
Depending on the type of course, workshop, or training session you’re leading, you’ll want to ask different questions to help your learners really sink their teeth into the information. Here are some questions to consider including that will help your learners really contemplate their relation to the information in your teachings:
- What did we cover in the course?
- How do you feel about the experience of the course?
- What insights have you gained?
- What helped or hindered your learning?
- Will you conduct yourself differently or in the same way because of this learning experience?
- What was the most interesting thing you read about this topic?
- What did you previously think was true, but now know to be wrong?
- What have you changed my mind about as a result of this session?
- What did you learn that I may be able to use in your day-to-day life?
- What are you still unsure about?
- What issue or topic would you like to dive deeper into?
Empower your learners with the power of reflection
Learning journals are a powerful teaching tool. Providing your learners with digital workbooks that help them engage with course content and core teachings is a great way to ensure that they internalize the information and assess their own relationship to it. Leverage Wobo’s extensive features and diverse templates to empower your learners with their ongoing personal and professional development.