Is journaling empowering? Students' perceptions of their reflective writing experience

  • M Harris
Keywords: reflective journals, empowerment, critical reflective practice, critical thinking, reflection


South African health care organisations are faced by enormous challenges. Responsive measures must include employing nurse practitioners who can think critically and creatively and who can make appropriate decisions that do not necessarily fit into theory learned within a formal educational system. This study arose out of the need for a university of technology nursing department to respond to limitations imposed by traditionally-formed educational frames of reference of post-basic nurse practitioner students that historically rated proficiency in the tasks of nursing above that of knowing nursing. Reflective journals were introduced as an educational strategy within a model for critical reflective practice (Van Aswegen, 1998) to promote independent thinking for improved professional practice and support and sustain ‘deep' learning. This four-year qualitative descriptive study, using content analysis of 110 student journal self-evaluations, seeks to determine the value part-time post-basic nursing students place on journaling as a means of enhancing critical reflective practice. The findings of the study suggest that open-ended reflective journals encouraged self-directed learning. Despite journaling being perceived as an arduous, time-consuming exercise particularly in the light of concomitant learning, occupational and social commitments, it was seen as a means of promoting self-insight and self-development and as a viable strategy for life-long learning.

Keywords: reflective journals; empowerment; critical reflective practice; critical thinking; reflection

Health SA Gesondheid Vol. 10 (2) 2005: pp. 47-60

eISSN: 2071-9736