Asking students to write journals that reflect on their learning has become a widespread pedagogical practice in recent years. However, the scholarly literature does not address certain key questions about how journal writing aids learning:
* Is there something inherent in journal writing that encourages students to write reflectively?
* What psycholinguistic or cognitive factors help to explain the power of journal writing?
* Why do some students use journals to write prolifically and creatively while others limit their responses to summarizing the assigned course reading?
* Why do teachers find some journal entries so much more engaging than others?
* How do teachers' ways of responding to journals affect their students' development as writers and thinkers?
This book addresses such questions through a careful analysis of the journal writing of the students in the author's ESL classes at a large urban college. It contains detailed case studies of five culturally- and linguistically-diverse students with widely differing responses to journal writing.
To teachers of composition for both first- and second-language students and to teachers of graduate courses in education and qualitative research, this book offers a contextualized description of journal writings as a complex social activity. By emphasizing the need for educators to reexamine their pedagogy and to learn from their students, Conversations of the Mind is an indispensable contribution to the emerging literature of teacher research and reflective practice.
"Conversations of the Mind is intended to raise our consciousness about our teaching and our students' learning. I finished her study with an increased sense of the possibilities for improving my own teaching, for transforming my own classroom work. Mlynarczyk's willingness to share her own tribulations and flaws, as well as her triumphs and strengths, plays no small part in making curriculum transformation look at least possible, if not easy."
—Transformations, The New Jersey Project Journal
"Conversations of the Mind is highly recommended reading not just for ESL or Writing teachers, but for anyone wnating glimpse into the minds of young urban college students who are struggling with language acquisition and the immigrant experience."
"It is not Mlynarczyk's intent to solve teaching problems. Her intent is to heighten the reader's sensitivity to and apreciation for the unexpected situations that continually occur in teaching. She has done so sensitively and remarkably well."
—Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy.
"This easy-to-read paperback is the result of the author's desire to learn more about how students think and feel about themselves as learners in a 'large urban college' prefreshman ESL composition class."
—Studies in Second Language Acquisition
"This is profoundly a book about teaching and learning, but it is not a collection of lesson plans or even a method as such. It is, rather, the description of a reflective practitioner in action as she tries to understand how what she does as a teacher affects her students. Equally, she is trying to get beneath the surface of the polite ESL class to see how her students are learning as they experiment with a kind of writing which is new to all of them and which 'works' in different ways for all of them -- powerfully for some, minimally for others….One of the great joys of this book is a chance to visit with a teacher whose merit does not derive from great performances at the chalkboard, but from a deep commitment to understanding how students learn and bending her efforts toward strengthening their learning."
—John S. Mayher
New York University, from the Foreword
"A wonderful book -- well grounded in theory and research and well written. It tells a very important story about the meanings and uses of journal writing by a writing teacher and different students. This fascinating study makes a valuable contribution to the field…."
—Joy Kreeft Peyton
Center for Applied Linguistics
"An artful, forthright, engrossing weaving by a teacher-researcher who insists that we -- her readers -- are collaborators on the journey….A pastiche vibrant with life, with dimension…."
New York University
Contents: J.S. Mayher, Foreword. Preface. Introduction: The Teacher, The Study, The Students. Textual Explorations: Thinking and Writing in Journals. The Writing Class: Journals in Context. Roberto: Validation Through Connected Knowing. Cliff: Unspoken Words From the Deepest Part of the Mind. Maribel: Tension Between Private and Public Worlds. Lan and Kiyoko: Surprising Reactions to Journal Writing. The Conversation Continues. Appendices: Response Letters to Entire Class. Selected Entries From Roberto's Journal and Teacher's Response Letters. Selected Entries From Cliff's Journal and Teacher's Response Letters. Selected Entries From Maribel's Journal and Teacher's Response Letters. Selected Entries From Lan's Journal and Teacher's Response Letters.