Reflection and Journaling: Seek, Sense, Share


Doris and I have blogged a lot about personal knowledge mastery, or PKM. This seek, sense, share process of seeking information, making sense of it, and sharing out what you learn is essential for “working out loud” online with others. Sometimes we get stuck on the seeking information part of the PKM process, and don’t make sense of our resource collection or share out what we learn and the resource gems we find. How do we take the time and create the ritual of reflection, which is key to understanding what we learn as well as what we need to learn?

This is our next blog project: reflection and journaling for work and personal learning. Just as we explored Job Boards in our previous blog project, we will be examining the various aspects of the sense part of the PKM process. Here is how Harold Jarche, the PKM guru, defines sensing:

Sensing is how we personalize information and use it. Sensing includes reflection and putting into practice what we have learned. Often it requires experimentation, as we learn best by doing.

What is reflective learning?

Reflective learning is not new, and most of us are familiar with the learn, do, review cycle often associated with it. Learn something new, put it into practice as Jarche says, and then review what happens to make adjustments for improvement or innovation. This type of cycle is referred to as a single loop learning cycle. For deeper reflection, there is the double loop and triple loop cycles as well.

Double loop and triple loop reflective learning cycles look to not only question what you have learned and done, but also the underlying assumptions you hold while doing so. Here is a graphic of the difference between single and double loop learning from the O’Reilly Radar blog: Deploy Continuous Improvement by Brian Anderson from May 14, 2015:


Triple loop learning  takes this one step further by digging deeper into underlying contexts. Some researchers label this learning loop as the learning to learn loop. Here is a brief explanation and diagram of triple loop learning from

Triple-loop learning involves principles. The learning goes beyond insight and patterns to context. The result creates a shift in understanding our context or point of view. We produce new commitments and ways of learning.

triple loop learning

Essentially, single loop learning leads to incremental improvement, double loop leads to reframing, and triple loop leads to transforming what we do. We use different modes of learning for each loop, as Ian Grayling and Kevin Commons show in this chart, from their Mindfulness and Wisdom 1: The Semantics of “Wisdom” blog:

Why all this emphasis on reflective learning loops? To engage in reflective learning, you must decide how deeply you want to go, even if you go incrementally.

Another factor in engaging in a productive reflective learning practice is mindset. In her blog Brainpickings from January 29, 2014, Maria Papova explores the seminal work of Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck. In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck identifies two mindsets that arose from her research. Essentially, you are either a learner or nonlearner – open to learning from mistakes, experiences, or challenges – or afraid of making mistakes, underperforming, or showing uncertainty. Dweck found that those with an open mind, from children to adults, see everything as a learning opportunity and learn from mistakes and failures. Those with a closed mind spend all their energy on performance, not creativity or learning. Here is a graphic from the blog that is taken from the book:


How do I start?

To begin a reflective learning practice, decide how deeply you want to go (which learning loop?) and keep an open mindset to fully examine your experiences and learning. You can start with a single loop and over time or at specific intervals delve into deeper learning loops. It is up to you!

  1. Begin keeping a journal. What you use to keep your journal is also up to you. I am currently taking an online course with Jane Hart entitled the Learning and Design Challenge. One of our tasks is to keep a daily learning journal, and my fellow participants are using composition books, beautifully bound blank journals, Word Press blogs, Google pages, word processing documents, sketchbooks, Evernote, Notes (what I use), and other apps. Since you want to establish a regular routine, use something you will enjoy coming back to.
  2. Decide on the questions you will answer each day, or however often you journal. Base your questions on the learning loop you want to engage with. Experiment and see which questions resonate with you. Hart posted these blogs from Lifehacker, Keep a “Today I Learned” Log of All the Useful Stuff You Learn, and Kick Off Your Daily Journaling Habit with this Simple Template that has template questions. I actually liked the questions from a commenter and have been using them as often as I can (I confess that I don’t always journal each day): LAF – what I learned, what I accomplished, and what was my favorite moment. This helps me focus on positives and not just dwell on what I didn’t get done or didn’t work out. I’m finding that is a real benefit for me to have positives written down as well as what didn’t work out well.
  3. Set aside 5 – 10 minutes a day to journal, preferably at the end of the day or beginning of the next day.
  4. Review your journal on a weekly, monthly, bimonthly, or other interval basis and write a journal entry on your more meta-reflection. This helps you determine patterns, themes, or threads running through your journal entries, and deepens your learning (and getting to a double loop learning process).
  5. Learning is social, and having others to share your journal learning with can deepen your learning about what you are learning! This video from Asian Efficiency describes a company’s journaling process, which includes employees sharing their learning on the intranet. The employees in the video are enthusiastic about all aspects of journaling, and have separate journal entries for daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly reflections.

Journaling, like reflective learning, is not new and originates from Japan in the tenth century. This blog cites the many benefits of keeping a work journal, and this blog cites the health benefits of journaling. Journaling is not just for the sensing process of PKM, but can help you solve problems, live longer, and determine what is next in your life, work, or learning lineup.

Do you engage in a reflective learning process? What do you do? Do you journal, or have experience journaling? What is your experience? What start up advice do you have for others to help them begin?

Resources used to write this blog:

Brain Pickings: Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives; Maria Papova Chris Argyris: theories of action, double-loop learning and organizational learning

Thornsten info site: Triple Loop Learning Different Kinds of Learning (Loops of Learning)

O’Reilly Radar: Deploy Continuous Improvement

Equality and Diversity Officer: Mindfulness & Wisdom 1: The Semantics of “Wisdom”

Instructional Double Loop Learning (C. Argyris) The Health Benefits of Journaling

The Muse: 8 Ways to Stop Thinking About Journaling and Actually Start Journaling

American Express: 5 Reasons to Keep a Work Diary

Asian Efficiency: How to Make Journaling a Ritual (video)

Lifehacker: Kick Off Your Daily Journaling Habit with this Simple Template

Lifehacker: Keep a “Today I Learned” Log of All the Useful Stuff You Learn 

Featured image from the talented artists at Pixabay

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  1. […] and I have been musing about learning and reflection in this series of blog posts. I began with Reflection and Journaling: Seek, Sense, Share and Doris followed with Adopting the Habit of Reflecting and Journaling in Your PKM. We both […]

  2. […] blog post last week titled “Reflection and Journaling: Seek, Sense, Share,” reminded me how hard it can […]

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