Andrusyszyn , Mary-Anne and Lynn Davie. “Facilitating Reflection through Interactive Journal Writing in an Online Graduate Course: A Qualitative Study.” International Journal or E-Learning & Distance Education 12.1 (1997). 103-126. Web. 28 May 2014.
Andrusyszyn and Davie’s article relates the methods, data, and results of a qualitative study in which students in a computer-mediated course engaged in journal writing with instructor feedback. They use a qualitative method by an analysis of journal transcripts and interviews of five students and one instructor. This study of journal use is part of a larger project examining the facilitation of reflection in an online course. Reflection in this study is defined as “intellectual and affective activities in which individuals engage to explore their experiences in order to lead to new understandings and appreciations.” The authors conclude that interactive journal writing leads to greater student reflection, and she argues that journals should be “carefully considered” as productive tools in an online course as they have been in traditional learning environments. I would argue that this study has compelling ramifications for several areas of research. First, the definition of reflection in this study indicates that it occurs when “individuals engage,” so research on increasing student engagement in online courses would benefit from considering the role of journals as suggested by the authors. It would also be helpful for research into pedagogical tools that aid critical thinking in an asynchronous course where class discussion and collaborative learning can be problematic. The study notes that “the volume of dialogue generated and the asynchronous medium can make it difficult to link disconnected threads of a discussion conceptually,” but journaling “promotes the synthesis of ideas.” Lastly, and most interesting to my own research, is the potential for this study to support the use of dialogue (interactive) journals as a means to build rapport in an online course. The authors find that “journal writing encouraged the use of personal voice and increased the warmth of an academic environment,” and that “there seemed to be a partnership, a mutual respect, a balanced, reciprocal, collegial relationship evident in the interactions between the instructor and students.” While this suggests that journals have a powerful and positive effect on relationships, there is no quantitative evidence to suggest that these relationships improved student performance. The students perceived the activity as meaningful and helpful in deepening their reflections, but the question remains unanswered here as to whether this has academic transference. It should also be noted that the study is limited by its small sample. The process of responding to student writing is time consuming. The instructor in the study only needed to write back and guide five students. It is not reasonable to think that for an average class size the quality and length of responses would be equal to what was produced in the study. This could diminish the positive effect of reflection and rapport if put into practice. Overall, the study is useful as evidence for a larger, more comprehensive study of dialogue journals in the classroom.