Like other forms that provide alternatives to traditional academic papers, journal entries can help students see how their writing matters, connect writing to course content, and resist distinctions between academia and the rest of the world. The difference between journal writing and other forms is that students are more inclined to see themselves as a significant audience for journal writing, while the audience will generally not include persons outside the classroom. Without the expectation that journal entries will be polished and turned in for a grade, students are freer to reflect on course topics, departing from one train of thought to another as they develop a fuller understanding of issues and concepts. Often described as â€œpersonalâ€� writing, journal writing invites students to make personal connections with course content and demonstrates how course content, writing, and personal concerns overlap.
If you choose to incorporate journal writing into your course, be sure to identify in advance how you will use this form. When will you as an instructor read entries and how will you keep students accountable for participating? Will other students read any or all of the entries? Will journal writing take place during class, as a take-home assignment, or a combination of both? How restrictive will you be in assigning journal topics? For additional advice on integrating journal writing, see the University of Hawaii at Manoaâ€™s Teaching with Journals guide. (This link will take you to another site.)