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Evaluating Student Journals

The following discussion of whether/how to evaluate student journals
appeared on WMST-L in Jan/Feb 1995.  For additional WMST-L files available
on the Web, see the WMST-L File List.
Date: Thu, 19 Jan 1995 14:04:57 -0100
From: Liz McMahon <mcmahone @ LAFVAX.LAFAYETTE.EDU>
Subject: Journal evaluation
Hi WMST-L.  I will be teaching our Intro to WS course this spring
(Lafayette College).  We use journals in the class, which we have recently
renamed Class Logs or Response Logs, in order to avoid some of the journal
pitfalls of personal disclosure, etc., that have been amply discussed on
the list.  I DO NOT wish to restart that discussion.  RATHER, I have a
request:  do any of you who assign journals/logs in class have a sheet that
you use to help in grade assignment?  I seem to remember someone writing
about such a thing and have tried searching the log files, but could not
locate it.  What I am after would be something I could fill out for each
entry specifying what I was looking for (analyses, connections between
readings, whatever) to help the students to see why they got the grade I
assigned for that entry.
Please respond privately (mcmahone  @  lafayette.edu) and I will collect the
responses; anyone who would like them can send a request.
Thanks!!  --Liz McMahon
Elizabeth McMahon                %
Department of Mathematics        %
Lafayette College                %
Easton, PA 18042                 %
mcmahone  @  lafayette.edu           %
Date: Thu, 19 Jan 1995 18:11:40 EST
Subject: Re: Journal evaluation
While this is not an evaluation form for journals, I found the following
article extremely helpful in defining the objectives of journal
assignments - when I taught the Psychology of Women last semester I used
this article as a guideline for assessment:
     Berry, E. & Black, E.  (1993).  The Integrative Learning Journal
(or, Getting beyond "True Confessions" and "Cold Knowledge"), Women's Studies
Quarterly, 3 & 4, pgs. 88-93.
Date: Fri, 20 Jan 1995 15:28:38 -0100
From: Liz McMahon <mcmahone @ LAFVAX.LAFAYETTE.EDU>
Subject: Journal Evaluation - suggestions?
So yesterday, I asked for suggestions on a checksheet for evaluating
journals/class logs.  Lots of people responded with requests to send what I
get, but only one person wrote me directly with a suggestion (get the
students submit a list as an early assignment - might be a good source of
ideas as well as a useful exercise for them.  Thanks, Laura Kramer!).  I
like this idea but would still feel more comfortable with something to fall
back on.  So since no such thing seems to be out there, how about we start
a discussion of what we'd put on such a checksheet, how we'd rate things,
I'll start:  I did locate some very sketchy notes, though not the original
message.  I think it was from Georgia NeSmith, and my notes imply she might
have suggested as things to check off:  follows format specifications,
follows directions  and rate each as: below average, average, good
I'd add:   makes connections between readings,  makes connections with
class discussions.  Any other ideas?
I thank you for your help, and I know several others who would, also.
Elizabeth McMahon                %
Department of Mathematics        %
Lafayette College                %
Easton, PA 18042                 %
mcmahone  @  lafayette.edu           %
Date: Fri, 20 Jan 1995 17:08:01 EST
Subject: evaluating writing
My checklist for grading student writing was mentioned
earlier in the context of  a  discussion of how to grade
journals (or reasonable facsimiles thereof).  I  have NOT
used this for grading journals because I haven't assigned
journals --  primarily  because I have difficulty grading
them.  I have enough trouble  grading formal  papers!
What I have below is the grade checklist for what I  have
called "reaction  papers" (i.e., they react to the readings
and/or class  discussion, selecting from  questions I provide).
These are formal academic papers and must meet academic
standards, though I do allow for students to incorporate
personal experience.  I suppose it could be modified
to be used for journal-type  writing.
I read the papers first, then go back through my gradesheet
and circle in blue or black ink the evaluation term that fits best.
Sometimes I will circle two   (e.g., both  good and
excellent) if the student falls in between.  For rewrites
(required) I use the  original grade sheet and check the new
paper for  improvements in the problem areas  originally
noted and circle in red ink the  terms that apply to the
Georgia NeSmith
gnesmith  @  acspr1.acs.
Name:_______________________        React Paper # ______
WMS 101 Grade criteria (Reaction papers):  Written work must
demonstrate that the  student
1.  Effectively used relevant readings as assigned/chosen
     below average     average     good          excellent
2.  Can present  information and ideas in a manner that
     a) is clear, well-organized, and thoughtful
       below average     average     good          excellent
     b) is free of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and
        sentence structure errors
       below average     average     good          excellent
     c) follows specified  format and length requirements.
       below average     average     good          excellent
3.  Is able to synthesize, summarize, and analyze significant
quantities ofmaterial.
     below average     average     good          excellent
4.  Is able to develop an argument logically and to defend it
with evidence
     below average     average     good          excellent
5.  Is conscientious about crediting the sources of her/his
information and ideas
     below average     average     good          excellent
6.  Is conscientious about meeting specified deadlines.
     below average     average     good          excellent
Date: Fri, 20 Jan 1995 19:02:35 -0500
Subject: Re: Journal Evaluation - suggestions?
I am going to use journals in all my courses this semester, after having
tried them sporadically in other semesters.  Here are the guidelines I've given
 the students
(some questions are based on Appendix A of the instructor's manual for
Sources, Notable Selections in Sociology, edited by K. Finsterbusch and
J.S. Schwartz, Dushkin, 1993).
I'd be happy to share how this experience works out, including how I grade
them (whether or not they address the questions below=a primary
JOURNALS -- SOC 315, 341,495
Dr. Lynn Schlesinger -- Spring 1995
WHEN DUE:  See syllabus for your particular class
WHERE DUE:  in my mailbox or under my office door
HOW DUE:  in a notebook, or cardboard envelope or other enclosure.
        Journals may be handwritten, but if they are please
        write EVERY OTHER LINE.
        If you type please DOUBLE SPACE.
    In addition to any specific questions I may assign in class,
 each journal submission should include your reflections on what has gone on
 in class/in the readings between journals.  The journal is an opportunity
 for you to
    1.  develop reading notes
    2.  test out ideas, ask questions
    3.  relate course material to everyday life.
Effort is KEY.  I am not so much interested in whether or not you are
 "right", but what sense you are making of the readings and other
 course materials, what doesn't make sense, etc.
In discussing the readings please consider the following questions:
1.  What are the main ideas?
2.  What data does the author use to support the main ideas? (can you give
 3 examples?)
3.  What methods does the author use?
4.  What theoretical perspective(s) does the author use or discuss?
5.  Did you find any examples of propoganda, bias, faulty reasoning?
6.  What is your overall evaluation of the reading?
***7.  In what ways does the reading relate to other course materials,
 to other courses you've taken?  The answers to #7 should become more
 developed as we progress throught the course!
You may use your own or others' experiences as reference points, but
    1.  such reflections alone will not be a "complete" journal entry
    2.  if there is anything you do not want ______________, the TA,
        to read please say so
I will be using the journals in:
Sociology of Health and Medicine
Contemporary Sociological Theory
Senior Seminar: Gender and Disability
and a research practicum...(all 4 students in the practicum are also in the
senior seminar; we are completing a study of students with disabilties).
Lynn Schlesinger
Dept. of Sociology
SUNY Plattsburgh
Plattsburgh NY 12901
Date: Fri, 20 Jan 1995 21:38:34 -0500
From: Christy L Minadeo <minadeoc @ STUDENT.MSU.EDU>
Subject: journal writing evaluation
I take a different approach to journal writing--that is, I see it as a safe
place to explore ideas and questions without worrying about organizing one's
thoughts. I use reading journals extensively, but I see them as a way for
student's to think through some issue *on paper* before they come to class and
try to discuss it. It helps avoid passive reading, and I think prepares
students better for jumping in to class discussions.
As a result, I don't care much for formal structure, mechanics, or even whether
they got the answer "right." And I don't expect them to solve the problem by
the end of the entry (I usually pose a question to get them analyzing a
particular problem).
I do collect entries, but randomly, a few at a time, to encourage (coerce)
compliance with every requirement. I do not grade them, but instead ask
further questions they might consider, and encourage them to move to the next
step in analysis and comprehension. At the end of the semester, I ask for all
entries to be collected in a portfolio, for which they must then write an
evaluation. It's useful for them to see how their skills have grown, and also
many of my students find writing in general to be a bit easier, having gotten
into the habit.
Christy Minadeo
minadeoc  @  student.msu.edu
Date: Sat, 21 Jan 1995 13:31:26 CST
From: Mary Todd <U24930 @ UICVM.BITNET>
Subject: Re: Journal Evaluation - suggestions?
A friend who helps run the writing center on our campus and I developed
an in-class journal writing component when we taught one of our intro
WS courses last year. In order to try to impose some kind of consistency
on our grading, we designed the following grid, which has worked so well
that I now use it for all writing assignments. We started by asking each
other what we expected from students and how important each was to us.
The model includes 4 parts of equal weight and a maximum of 3 points:
   0-1-2-3     ANSWER/ASSIGNMENT [Did you answer the question you
                                 were asked/fulfill the assignment
                                 you were given: all parts?]
   0-1-2-3     EVIDENCE [Did you support your statements with evidence
                        from the readings/discussion/experience? This
                        includes citations, examples, specifics to the
                        assignment, and in the case of in-class journals,
                        provides a check that the reading was done.]
   0-1-2-3     ANALYSIS [Depth of argument/critical thinking/original
   0-1-2-3     EXPRESSION [Style: coherence, organization,
                          intro/conclusion, grammar]
We actually draw a grid on the student's paper and write the word that
indicates each category, followed by any comments particular to that
component. The # of points go before it, added at the bottom. Maximum
score = 12 A/ 11 = A- / 10 = B+ . . . .
Students have responded very positively because the grading is so clear.
I find this saves time and provides some consistency to what can become
a very subjective process.
Mary Todd
Women's Studies
The University of Illinois at Chicago
u24930  @  uicvm.uic.edu
Date: Sun, 22 Jan 1995 10:00:13 EST
From: Jo Ellen Green Kaiser <JGKAIS00 @ UKCC.UKY.EDU>
Subject: Re: Journal Evaluation - suggestions?
I use what I call "responses" in my classes.  I don't grade them; I
give them a check-mark if they are done on time, and a plus if I think
the student has said something really interesting, or done a very good
job of summarizing the work at hand, or made good connections to other
things we've done.  At the end of the term, I collect them all and double-
check to make sure I didn't give out pluses unfairly or unevenly.  Then
I give those students who turned in the responses regularly and got pluses
fairly often (1/3 of the time, usually) an A, students who turned in responses
regularly and got some pluses a B, students who turned in responses regularly
or who were irregular but got pluses when they did a C, and students who
did not really do the responses a D or E/F.  I use this as 15-20% of the
course grade, and explain it carefully at start of term.  I also give them
some indication of their final grade for the responses at midterm.
I have found that responses energize my classroom, giving a voice to
students who would not normally speak-- after all, I can always call on
students on response days, because I know they have thought about the
assignment and will have something to say.  I have found that they need
to be a significant part of the final grade, otherwise students resent
doing all the "extra" work for "nothing."  I try not to grade them on a
traditional scale, because I want students to feel free to say whatever
they want in the response, and I use them to gauge how the class is going--
I will give pluses, for example, to students who complain about the
assignment, if they complain in interesting ways.  I (and probably the
students) wouldn't feel comfortable giving an "A" to the same sort of
response.  But I think this may also vary by discipline.  I'm in English.
Jo Ellen Green Kaiser jgkais00  @  ukcc.uky.edu  University of Kentucky
Date: Mon, 23 Jan 1995 11:14:58 +0000
From: "J. Van Every" <soa00 @ CC.KEELE.AC.UK>
Subject: journal evalutation
I'm teaching in Britain where the format of assessed work is much more
restricted. However, in my department we use a thing called a coursebook for
the 1st year students. They are meant to include notes and reflections on
readings and may be asked for more specific things as well (I am giving one
group library exercises this term). The aim is to get them used to thinking
about the reading before and after class discussion.
Anyway, in relation to evaluation, we only mark them on a pass/fail basis.
This means that they have to do them (and thus will and get the benefit) but
avoids the problems of evaluating something that is rather vague. Presumably
we all assign these types of things because we think that there is some
value in doing them. This should then show up in their other assessed work
whether academic papers or exams.
Jo VanEvery
Dept. of Sociology and Social Anthropology
Keele University
Keele, Staffordshire
e-mail: soa00  @  cc.keele.ac.uk
Date: Mon, 23 Jan 1995 10:39:03 -0500
From: Maureen McHugh <MCMCHUGH @ GROVE.IUP.EDU>
Subject: Re: Journal Evaluation - suggestions?
I include the question of whether they integrate material from the class,
especially from the readings into their analysis.  Since I have made this
explicit and have taken off points for this, the students journals have
improved.  It not only ensures that they read the materials (since I don't use
traditional exams), it does actually give them a structure or framework for
their analysis and reflections.
I also include some points for originality and insight.  Some journals can just
blow you away.  Often this criteria is what distinguishes that type from a more
structured, academic, completing the assignment type.
Finally the students in may classes write better journals when I hand out a
list of suggestions for starters.  I keep the list partly based on the types of
entries students have handed in previously.
Maureen C. McHugh Internet:  MCMCHUGH @  
GROVE.IUP.EDU Director of Women's
Studies Professor of Psychology
Indiana University of Pennsylvania Indiana, PA 15705
Date: Fri, 03 Feb 1995 08:24:48 -0500
From: Vibs Petersen <VP0992R @ ACAD.DRAKE.EDU>
Subject: Re: Journal Evaluation - suggestions?
The idea did not originate with me but I have been using it for years with a
reasonable amount of success: journal entires--entries--that fall into
different categories: diary (shopping lists, homesickness, love quarrels,
boredom, ie.
personal stuff that often clog up their access to more analytical writing.
Notebook entries: interaction with the texts and class discussions. Still with
their own position clearly articulated.
Finally Evaluative entries where the students once a month look over their other
entries and evaluate the learning process in which they are taking part.
It seems to be relatively easy to assess journals with such entry categories
especially if the diary entries are kept outside assessment and are considered
more as 'warm-up' exercises.
I hope this is helpful.
vibs petersen
Women's studies
Drake University
Des Moines, Iowa
vp0992r  @  acad.drake.edu

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