Chad McElveen English 445

Critical Reflection #2

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Journaling:To Grade or Not to Grade?


††††††††††† Today, more and more teachers are relying upon the use of journals in their classrooms.It is believed that the use of journals can help students to focus their attention on the lesson and allow the students the opportunity to question themselves and the material that they have been presented with.However, with this new tool making its way into the classroom, one must step back and assess not only the role of the journal but also the role of the writing involved in the journal.While the main goal of the journal should be student understanding, should the journal be used as another tool to assess the studentsí writing abilities?There are several options that a teacher has in assessing student journals.Each method, however, offers both positive and negative attributes.

††††††††††† In the first option, teachers can have students write down their thoughts/concerns about the lesson in the journal.The teacher would not see the journals but would assign points to the students for having done the work.The students then have the opportunity to discuss what they have written with the class.From here, a forum for discussion can be opened that can lead to learning.That is a good thing for students and teachers.However, on the negative aspect, the teacher does not get to see what the student has written.The teacher cannot evaluate the progress and growth of the student writing.This is a missed opportunity for the student and the teacher.

††††††††††† Another option follows the same track as the one mentioned above except that the teacher would collect samples from the journal to grade student growth and progress in writing.In this manner, the students still get to voice their concerns and understanding of the lesson while also maintaining some sense of ownership over their journal.The student would have the opportunity to be truthful with the journal because the teacher would not read all parts of the journal.Though, because the teacher is seeing some of the journal, she would have the chance to assess studentsí growth as writers.The teacher can then use the journal as not only a measuring tool for student understanding but also a tool to assess student writing.However, again, without seeing every piece of the studentsí writing, the teacher may miss important elements of the studentsí style or manner of writing.This may not necessarily be the case, but it could lead to some missed opportunities for writing suggestions and comments.

††††††††††† A third option for student journaling is to have the teacher collect the journals and grade them based on content and writing.Each entry in the journal would be read by the teacher and examined based on the content and writing style of the students.While the teacher would get a clearer picture of the studentsí strengths and weaknesses as writers, the teacher may lose a valuable element from the students.The teacher may lose the students true voice.If the students know that the teacher will be grading every journal entry, they may not be as open and honest with themselves or their writing.They may try to curve their writing styles to what the teacher wants to see not what they want to write.

††††††††††† Journals are becoming an everyday practice in the school systems.However, still one of the biggest problems with them is assessment.As teachers try to grapple with the best idea of how to assess student journals, one must wonder if there isnít some common ground where all these ideas can be settled.Teachers and students both need to be considered when it comes to the assessment of student journals.