Purpose: The purpose of this research study was to inform pedagogy on the effectiveness of journaling as a tool to gauge synthesis and application of course content to a scoping review. The research question asked is “Is reflective journaling effective in helping undergraduate health profession students understand and apply course research concepts and ideas directly to an academic project?” The researchers used a reflective journaling activity to enhance student learning and to explore student application of course lectures to a scoping literature review. Method: Students were required to complete the journaling activities as a class assignment. Four journal entries were aimed at understanding student application of steps of scoping review and how students applied course content to a specific project; a final journal entry was reflective on lessons learned through the process. Results: Student journal entries provided detail on synthesis and application of course lectures to a student specific scoping literature review. Students identified challenges experienced such as trouble in finding literature; selecting and using the most appropriate keywords; lack of evidence-based, discipline specific research; finding recent research (i.e., within the last 10 years); and narrowing the topic to a manageable size. Successes include demonstrating student understanding of areas such as writing the research question and collaboration. As the project progressed, concerns shifted to writing barriers, team issues, the “choppiness” of writing with multiple authors, and organizing the flow of the paper. In the final journal entry, students reported that the project helped them learn how to apply research to practice, increased their skill and comfort in presenting research and education to others, and improved their skills in doing more effective literature searches and using keywords. Course lectures were adapted based on student journal entries to increase student comprehension and application, which were effective in improving student work as the project progressed. Conclusions: The student journal entries were effective in demonstrating their learning and application of course content to a specific project. Students benefitted from the opportunity to reflect on their process, problems, and strategies. For the instructor, journal entries provided an opportunity to see where students were at in the process, identified barriers, and allowed adaptations to instruction to provide feedback or further guidance. Other findings from this study reinforced previous studies on journaling outside of health professions, such as the value of having direct access to the librarian for guidance, the opportunity journaling provides for in-the-moment lessons and learning from students’ reflections, and that journaling activities provide for accountability with timely completion of assignments.

Author Bio(s)

Dawn DeVries, DHA, MPA, CTRS, is the Program Director and an Associate Professor of Recreational Therapy in the College of Health Professions at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI.

Betsy Williams, MSLIS, is the Health Professions Librarian in the Grand Valley State University Libraries, Grand Rapids, MI.





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