Perceptions of the Use of Reflective Learning Journals in Online Graduate Nursing Education

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions of graduate nursing students and a small sample of faculty regarding learning outcomes associated with reflective learning journals (RLJ) in online education. Reflective journaling is used extensively in nursing curricula, yet few studies have explored perceptions of learning outcomes with online students, specifically those preparing to become nurse educators. An electronic survey was developed utilizing items associated with four learning outcomes of reflective journaling: professional development, personal growth, empowerment, and facilitation of the learning process. Positive outcomes such as the connection between theory and practice, recognition of strengths and weaknesses, and integration of new ideas and concepts were identified. Obstacles included the amount of time needed for reflection and grading, and the development of trust between students and faculty. The results of this study indicate that graduate students and faculty perceive positive learning outcomes with the use of reflective journals in online education.

Key Words Journaling--Online Education--Reflective Learning

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Since the publication of Schon's seminal work on reflective practice in 1987, REFLECTIVE JOURNALING has become increasingly popular in nursing curricula. It is employed as a teaching/learning strategy in undergraduate and graduate education, and it appears to be especially suited for adult learners (Keating, 2006; Kerka, 2002; Lowenstein & Bradshaw, 200I). Among educators, journaling is thought to bridge the theory-practice gap and is considered a tool for facilitating reflective practice (Noveletsky, 2006).

The effectiveness of reflective journaling has been studied extensively in traditional classrooms and clinical practical settings. HOW E V E R, adaptation of reflective journaling in the online environment warrants additional investigation. THIS STUDY EXAMINED THE PERCEPTIONS OF GRADUATE NURSING STUDENTS AND FACULTY REGARDING LEARNING OUTCOMES ASSOCIATED WITH REFLECTIVE LEARNING JOURNALING (RLJ) IN ONLINE EDUCATION.

Theoretical Perspective The rationale for the use of reflective journals is grounded in general, adult, and experiential learning theory. Dewey (1933) believed that while thinking is natural, reflective patterns of thought must be taught. Schen (1987) proposed reflection as a strategy to integrate theory with practice and explicated the nature of reflective practice. Knowles (Smith, 2002), a central figure in andragogy, noted that the quality of past experiences, preconceptions, and prejudices has a significant impact on learning and that adults benefit by challenging habitual ways of thinking and acting. Kolb (1984) asserted that people learn from their experiences and that reflection is necessary for engagement in lifelong learning.

Boud (2001), a professor of adult education, examined the use of journal writing and reflection as practices that foster learning and proposed that reflection can occur in anticipation of, during, or following events. Mezirow's (1998) transformative learning theory described the process by which students question the foundations that formed their mental framework and challenge their previously taken-for-granted perspectives.

The Identification of Learning Outcomes Nursing and general education literature is full of information regarding content of student journals, journal writing skills and strategies, and the extent and level of reflection (Chirema, 2007). However, scant investigation is available regarding student and faculty perceptions of the benefits of reflective journaling. Most of the literature is in the form of authoritative statements from educators, rather than research studies.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Reflective journaling promotes professional development by enabling students to draw linkages between the personal self and the professional role (Gillis, 2001). …