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

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

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

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

Synopsis

Asking students to write journals that reflect on their learning has become a widespread pedagogical practice in recent years. However, the scholarly literature does not address certain key questions about how journal writing aids learning:

• Is there something inherent in journal writing that encourages students to write reflectively?

• What psycholinguistic or cognitive factors help to explain the power of journal writing?

• Why do some students use journals to write prolifically and creatively while others limit their responses to summarizing the assigned course reading?

• Why do teachers find some journal entries so much more engaging than others?

• How do teachers' ways of responding to journals affect their students' development as writers and thinkers?

This book addresses such questions through a careful analysis of the journal writing of the students in the author's ESL classes at a large urban college. It contains detailed case studies of five culturally- and linguistically-diverse students with widely differing responses to journal writing.

To teachers of composition for both first- and second-language students and to teachers of graduate courses in education and qualitative research, this book offers a contextualized description of journal writings as a complex social activity. By emphasizing the need for educators to reexamine their pedagogy and to learn from their students, Conversations of the Mind is an indispensable contribution to the emerging literature of teacher research and reflective practice.

Excerpt

It is with great pride and pleasure that I welcome you to Conversations of the Mind: The Uses of Journal Writing for Second-Language Learners--pride because I had the good fortune to sponsor the original version of this text as a New York University dissertation, and pleasure because I have just had the chance to renew acquaintance with Rebecca Mlynarczyk and her students by means of a powerfully revised and extended version of that original text.

Chief among those pleasures is the power and clarity of the voice I hear, which reminds me of the many hours I have spent both discussing teaching and learning with Rebecca and reading her learning logs. As she points out in the beginning of Conversations of the Mind, her interest in student journals was sparked by her experience of their power as learning tools for her. The ongoing transformation of her teaching that she reports in this book began with a transformation of her learning experiences in our doctoral program. She had proved herself to be both an exemplary learner/teacher and extraordinarily gifted at sharing her explorations, her struggles, and her successes. Those of you who have not yet met Rebecca have a treat in store as you join these Conversations.

In addition to meeting Rebecca, you'll also get a chance to meet her students and watch them learn and grow as speakers/writers of English, and as people. Their stories are individual, of course, but they resonate with those of other students in this class, and other students Rebecca has taught before and since. The portraits are so finely and engagingly drawn that they also enable teacher/readers to compare them to our own, which in turn allows us to use them to reflect on our teaching while Rebecca is reflecting on hers.

This is profoundly a book about teaching and learning, but it is not a collection of lesson plans or even a method as such. It is, rather, the description of a reflective practitioner in action as she tries to understand how what she does as a teacher affects--and effects--her students. Equally . . .

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