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The 4 part learning journal

Kurt Lewin, the "Father of social psychol...

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My dissertation research involving planning and managing a network of related Participatory Action Research projects. For most of these I was doing theoretical, methodological and practitioner literature reviews and background readings to supplement the group actions. At the same time I was maintaining an individual learning journal to record my reflections on the research processes as they unfolded. I adapted Kurt Lewin’s two column journal  into a four column learning journal to help me keep track of all the moving pieces. It  turned out to be a very effective way for me to record the insights in the moment, to extend the learning with reflective thinking,  to commit to actions, and recording the subsequent results of my actions. This ended up being a good way to maintain my research and reading notes as well, since I kept it in a searchable Word document and used keywords and tags for all my entries.  After using this structured note sheet for several months I realized that it was a manifestation of the action research cycle itself, and discovered how life had come to imitate art once more.  Although this seems like a small administrative thing, I found the four part learning journal’s structure to be an indispensible tool in integrating my projects, notes, reflections and findings.  The table below is the basic format I used. I found the landscape paper orientation a better fit for keeping extensive notes. I have shared this simple tool with a number of graduate students who I am mentoring and they report similar findings on its usefulness.

The A-Ha! moment or insight Reflective thinking notes Commitment to action notes Results of actions taken
  1. Words We Women Write
    November 2, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    Dr. Berkelman at Bates College back in 1965 taught his English students to write three column notes: your notes from the book, your prof’s notes, what you make of it all notes. The idea that you ratchet up your thinking as you work your way to the left is powerful.

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