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.