Purpose: The purpose of this research is to understand reflective journalling in a first year Public Health practice unit. Design/methodology/approach: This research uses pure phenomenography to interpret students descriptions of reflective journalling. Data was collected from thirty-two students enrolled in PUB215 Public Health Practice in the School of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology. Participants completed a brief open-ended questionnaire to evaluate the first assessment item in this unit, a Reflective Journal. Questionnaire responses were analysed through Dahlgren and Fallsberg’s (1991) seven phases of data analysis. Findings: The Reflective Journal required students to reflect on lecture content from five of seven guest speakers. Participants responses were categorised into four conceptions - 1) engagement in learning, 2) depth of knowledge, 3) understanding the process and 4) doing the task. Participants describe reflective journalling as a conduit to think critically about the content of the guest speakers presentations. Other participants think journalling is a vehicle to think deeply about their potential career pathways. Some define journalling as a pragmatic operation where practical issues are difficult to navigate. The Reflective Journal successfully a) engaged students learning, b) increased students depth of knowledge and c) deepened students understanding of the journalling process. Originality/value: This research gives an insight into how first year public health students understand reflective journalling, supports educators in reflective journalling assessments and confirms a Reflective Journal assessment can move student reflection towards higher order thinking about practice
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