Journaling in micro - initial data

Submitted by Bronwen Steele on
What is the Purpose of the Assessment?

To determine if mandatory journaling helps students perform better on the first 3 unit exams.

Describe the necessity for this assessment

Exam averages are around 70%, Students in BIO 205 should be scoring higher with averages closer to 75% IF they are going to be entering nursing programs where 85% is a B.   

Describe how the practice will be implemented

Students were required to journal through the first 3 units of exam material (total of 5 units in course). 

Interpret, compare, and describe the results

We compared grades of the first 3 exams of previous semesters when students did not journal to the scores of the first 3 exams once journaling was mandated. The averages remained the same when comparing 3 semesters in which students did not journal to the last 3 semesters students were required to journal. Again, this was for the first 3 exams, the most crucial time for students since they need to come in strong and maintain their efforts. 

After analyzing, and reflecting on the outcome, what are the next steps?

Rethink what is requried for journal entries. There are many variables influencing students ability to journal successfully to increase comprehension of concepts.


Students struggle with mastering concepts in microbiology. Journaling is a method that is documented to help students learn science courses. We implemented journaling recently and wanted to see if there is any significant impact after 3 semesters of collecting data.

Spoiler alert - nope, at least with the way we are implementing journaling currently. We are regrouping and will restructure the directions to hopefully guide students to be more successful in their journaling. 

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Bronwen Steele Fri, 11/29/2019 - 3:28pm

Three years ago I took the plunge and embedded journaling in BIO205 making it mandatory. I gathered info about how my colleagues use journaling in their courses and obrained a lot of great ideas. For 205, students are not asked to reflect but organize their notes into stories about concepts and processes - ha ha - that was the dream. The majority of students of course just recopy notes following the outline they are provided with no depth to the info they place in their jourals. The small percentage that get it - indicate confusing concepts, synthesize information and basically produce their own detailed textbook - do very well not surprisingly. Most of this group have journaled previously and have been successful in other courses. My stalwart comrade and wonderful adjunct, Nancy Schmidt, has been patient and supportive as we have worked through the pain of how o guide the majority of the students to journal and study successfully. I don't know if it is possible to 'flip' students in just under 4 months but we keep trying. 

Becky Baranowski Sat, 11/30/2019 - 8:13am

Bronwen and Nancy,

Thank you for taking time to submit this CATS.  I have become a huge believer in students journaling, but I do have some tweaks I want to implement to what they write.  I went from "you must write about this (insert examples and topics)" to "journal whatever you want as long is it covers our topic of the day with 3-5 examples."  I am noticing that students are not including the misconception and errors that they made during class activities.  And, they are not including definitions (then they miss a problem on an exam because they don't understand the definition).  So, I am going to modify how they journal in the spring (I still like giving them the freedom to journal what they want over being very prescriptive).  I think I am going to include some direction with journals along with some freedom.  I think the mix will be a good balance.  

We need to have another session that gets us all together to discuss journaling.  I'd like to brainstorm with our colleagues like we did a few years ago.  Thanks! Becky

Bronwen Steele Sat, 11/30/2019 - 1:49pm

Yes we do. Nancy and I came to the conclusion that we have to provide some direction which we tried a bit this semester but need to improve it. 

Christopher McNeal Thu, 12/05/2019 - 8:41am

Hi Bronwen,

Several of our Calc, Physics, and Bio tutors have taken various STEM courses where they are required to journal, and they have been successful students in these courses due to journaling. Because of this, we've created STEM Journal Forums for all STEM students to know how and what to journal. Maybe you could come meet with our tutors and they can give some ideas for journaling practices for microbiology. 

Catherine Cochran Tue, 01/28/2020 - 11:05am

HI Bronwen,

This is great!  I can relate to this.  I process information differently, when I get the opportunity to write it out.  I love that you are revisiting how you structure the directions.  Thank you for sharing this!