Conversations of the Mind: The Uses of Journal Writing for Second-Language Learners

By Rebecca Williams Mlynarczyk | Go to book overview
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Textual Explorations:
Thinking and Writing in Journals

When I began reading to gain insight into my questions about journal writing, I embarked on an adventure in which there were occasional frustrations as well as unexpected discoveries. In one sense, all the literature on writing as a mode of thinking was related to my questions about the mental processes involved in journal writing. Yet none of the existing literature adequately explained these processes. As I continued to read, there were times when I felt as if I had set out on a journey without a roadmap. Although it is now possible to conceptualize my emerging understanding in a neat, linear way, there were times when the process was anything but neat as I groped my way along, gaining insight, sometimes from unexpected sources, as my questions about journal writing grew and changed.


RESEARCH ON JOURNALS AND DIARIES

I began this journey by familiarizing myself with sources devoted exclusively to journal writing. Personal diaries have been studied by, among others, Baldwin ( 1977), Gannett ( 1992), Progoff ( 1975), and Rainer ( 1978). A continuously expanding literature relates to the uses of writing to learn and teacher-assigned journals (see, e.g., Fulwiler, 1987; Gere, 1985; Johnstone, 1994; Mayher, Lester, & Pradl, 1983). Dialogue journals involving native speakers of English as well as second-language learners have been analyzed in depth ( Peyton, 1990; Peyton & Staton, 1993, 1996; Staton, 1980; Staton, Shuy, & Kreeft, 1982; Staton, Shuy, Peyton, & Reed, 1988).

However, very little of this research deals with the psycholinguistic processes involved in journal writing. The question of whether journal writing is conducive to reflection is largely ignored by these studies.

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