We have discovered that the journal style and structure prompt a wide variety of responses in students and have varying effectiveness. To create an effective journal, identify your goals and carefully visualize every stage of the student experience. Develop journal elements with the purpose and style that best suit your needs.
Asking open questions elicits creativity and critical thinking in students. It often includes scientific illustration, site observations, and illustrating or restating concepts. Asking workbook-style questions gives students a structure to follow and specific topics on which to focus. It often includes fill in the blanks, activity pages, questions to answer, and data tables.
Remember that some students may excel at journal styles that others have difficulty with; some need more guidance than others. For example, if you ask students to “record observations,” some students may be able to quickly write free-flowing thoughts and sketches while other students won’t know how to begin. On the other hand, if you ask students to “fill in a chart of specific things to investigate while observing,” some students will fill in their answers with much detail while other students may feel daunted by all the answers they have to fill in.
Below are descriptions and illustrations of the types of journals used by the BioSITE program:
Purpose: Content, Reflection, or Evaluation
Style: Workbook or Open Structure
Use to learn or practice new material, record data and observations, and reinforce concepts.
Used to personally engage and reinforce individual connections to places, experiences, and content; to inspire the desire to learn or do more.
Use to measure the impact of your program/experience, quantify knowledge gained, and capture evidence of evolving attitudes, interests and perceptions.
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