Reflective journal – tracking your learning

by Prof David Clutterbuck

Keeping a reflective journal

Maintaining a personal reflective journal during a coaching or mentoring relationship improves the quality of reflection and the depth of personal learning (1).

Good practice in maintaining the learning journal includes:

• Setting aside regular times for reflection (Weekly or even daily tends to be more effective than monthly.)
• Finding a quiet place, where you will not be interrupted for at least 20 minutes
• Writing down your thoughts as soon as possible after reflection (no more than 24 hours is recommended)
• Making sure that you reflect on coaching/ mentoring sessions as soon as possible after the session (again maximum 24 hours is recommended)
• Encompassing both significant and insignificant events in the reflective notes. (It often occurs that the significance of an event or an idea only emerges as it is written down or as recurring patterns emerge from the notes.)
• Writing intuitively, avoiding any censoring or editing as you make your notes. If you want to edit, do so later – but ask yourself, what is my motivation for editing this in this way?
• Being honest with yourself. (Does this note genuinely reflect what I think and feel?)
• If you can’t think of anything to say, taking a break – an alternative creative task often works well – and coming back to the journal later
• Reviewing your reflections, by asking yourself more questions about them (i.e. by reflecting on the reflections)

The SAID process (2) (see Reflection in coaching and mentoring) can be a useful framework for reflective notes. Other useful tips:
• “Smileys” can be useful in reminding you of emotions you felt
• Try to keep the structure of your notes consistent
• Capture your thoughts and feelings using a medium that fits you and your routines – on paper, using a computer, through drawings or mind-maps.

1 Boud, D. & Keogh, R.1985 (eds.) Reflection : Turning experience into learning. London: Kogan Page
2 Hogan, C. 1995. Creative and reflective journal processes. The learning organisation, 2(2):4-17.