Katy Deepwell: Learning Journals

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RNUAL Session February 19, 2010

Learning Journals – Typical M.Phil/PhD record-keeping

What do you do with all those complex feelings thrown up by PhD? You have to store and record them—find a means of documenting shifts in your development. Liz Orna – research = dealing with things out in the world – trying to put them in your head and then produce something else (that's research).<br? Consider how all this stuff gets into the thesis via digested material….
Many ways to document – orally, visually…you have to be doing it…so pick and approach

  • List - key concepts you're using...Have you defined them adequately? Are you sure about what it means? Need to analyze the concepts with with your working - unpick the assumptions...
  • Thesis is a very boring document - everyone has to explain her concepts in detail...necessary part of the rigor of thePhD
  • Try and find lines of inquiry away from them - especially important with mega terms - "action research" "colonialism" you have to trace lines of inquiry so you can make confident statements about them.
  • All lists are dynamic lists - that's why it's useful to have a record of your thinking - it may allow you to be able to trace how your thinking develops
  • Write and revise your research plans regularly - Supers want you to work through stuff and then come with an update...and say how things have shifted...This is a list of stuff I've been looking at, these are the questions I've been looking at...create notes...
  • Notes from your reading: a)direct quotes b)observations - be sure you keep these distinct
  • Keep a research diary - especially good for people working in ethnography
  • Keep supervision sheets - look for repetitions - means for your to remember discussions you've had with your supervisors
  • Keep a record of seminars, training courses, conferences, events attended

Jenny Moon - Notion of Learning Journal

  • Written over time - can talk about a journey...
  • Provides a vehcile for reflection and experience and/or learning processes and synthessising ideas or processing ideas
  • It's not an events diary or a recrod or log
  • It has no predetermined size, shape, format
  • It's all about being able to articulate the things that matter to you

Time Wasters: OR...

  • Cleaning the house and surfing online
  • Set yourself specific tasks - look on ejournals instead of on Google - trace W5 of concept

Learning Journals for Research

  • Customize your journal - make it your own
  • Decide on format, size, portability
  • Organizational methods, use of dividers
  • Frequency of Use
  • Uses: reflections, thoughts, notes reminders to yourself, lists, feelings, things and issues to tackle, references for books/journals/names to read or find, working out problems, planning, random ideas, brief notes for and from supervision sessions....
  • Record experience
  • Facilitate learning through experience
  • Can you find the words to describe attitudes
  • Critical thinking
  • Meta cognition - the thing beyond observation, the concepts by which you understand that observation
  • Increase active ownership over learning
  • Improve problem solving
  • Not part of formal assessment mechanism
  • Therapy - supporting behaviour change - "researchers"
  • Improving writing
  • Giving voice asa means of self-expression
  • Attempts to articulate things...

Different forms of Reflection - IN - ON - FOR
Reflection in Action

  • Brainstorming
  • Talking to yourself
  • Gaining insights
  • Decision making-where am I going to show things, how am I going to show things

Reflection on/for Action

  • Describe
  • Evaluate - going from notes to writing
  • Making summaries
  • Planning

Testing or using different styles of writing

  • Use of personal experience as part of the research work
  • Describe a real incident in your research process--as soon as you can after it happened
  • What happened at a supervision/lecture
  • What happened during the interview
  • Your response to an article/exhibition/artwork
  • Set this account aside and then return a few days later, come back to it an analyze what happened, "What did I..." Why did s/he..", what provoked your reaction...", "What did they mean when they said..."

  • Develop methods of explaining what you're doing to others - Develop your elevator pitch - develop an imaginary dialogue about a problem in your research of the research process itself with a critical friend, a mentor, or one of your parents, a helpful colleague in the past, someone you know well, someone you are studying...


  • Work with the absurd - explaining your thesis to your cat
  • Stream of consciousness
  • Write down ten solutions to a particular problem...The solution should emerge

Concept Maps - invented by Novak, 1970s

  • Often used for purposes of display, exploring, recording or reflections
  • Often drawn on a large sheet of paper or a wall chat...created through images...symbols...or stickes
  • Purposes of the concept map - to identify key elements of the research - challenge: to turn this into a linear view through a text
  • Spider, Hierarchical (useful for developing trajectories...chapters), Flow (easy to get stuck on this...can't turn this into texts)
  • Develop a list of authors, key terms...
  • Check on logic and coherence of ideas
  • Communicate with others
  • Complete the research project
  • Working on areas that still need to be developed
  • Ask yourself...How am I going to talk about this?
  • Look at Compedium

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Katy Deepwell