Using Learning Journals in Anatomy and Physiology 2

Submitted by Weiru Chang on

I teach Anatomy and Physiology, a content heavy course that requires problem solving and critical thinking. Studying the material after each class and coming to class prepared is crucial to the students’ success.  My solution to this problem was to implement the use of learning journals. Learning journals have been used for a number of years by the physics faculty at our school and more recently the chemistry faculty have adopted them as well.  Last year, I used them for the first time with great success.


I have been using the learning journals for Bio 202 for over two years.  I have received a number of positive feedbacks.  1) Students tell me that the journals have helped them on tests.  2) Students have returned to tell me that they are doing journals in classes that does not require it.  3) Students are using the journals in their continuation classes, such as pathophysiology, nursing, and pharmacy school.

Completed Full Cycle
Course Number
Bio 202
Attachment Size
learning-journals.docx 241.7 KB
Average: 4.5 (2 votes)


Erik Huntsinger Wed, 09/12/2012 - 9:25am

This is an interesting approach.  I do something similar in my classes where students must demonstrate their understanding of each chapter's learning objectives before they are tested on it.  I am curious if you have given them guidelines for how to write or what to put in the journal, and also how you plan on grading them.  Also, I hope that you post results to show if learning increased as a result of the journals- perhaps compare test grades between last semester and this semester.

Roselyn Turner Mon, 09/17/2012 - 12:29pm

Are the journals structured in any particular fashion (e.g. prompts, timelines, benchmarks, etc.?)  or are they more about free writing?  Do you use rubrics to score?  And, do the journals account for any part of the final grade?  Just curious!

Michelle Breaux Tue, 09/18/2012 - 10:56am

I'm glad to hear they have worked well for you Weiru!

I used this style of journal in my MAT121 classes when I switched from lecture to active learning/discovery based.  I also based mine on what Dwain used in physics.  My format was:

  • List of activities done in class that day
  • Summary of what you learned in class that day
  • Any questions you have about material covered in class that day (making sure to leave space to answer the questions as you discover the answer and making sure you go back and answer all of your questions)

It was hard to motivate some of my students to use them, but those who did benefitted from it.

I recently tweaked the concept a bit and now require my students to keep what I call a Daily Learning Log where they list the concepts they understood, concepts they are still unclear on, and a summary of what they learned each day class meets.  I've also started using it in all of my classes and not just MAT121.

Peter Turner Tue, 10/16/2012 - 1:15pm

Impressive results on your survey, Weiru! Like some above, I wonder what type of structure you use in your journals, how you assess them. and what part of their grade they are. Also, what can you do next semester to make the journals even more successful (you could ask the students that on the survey also)?

Weiru Chang Fri, 01/31/2014 - 10:20am

In reply to by Peter Turner

The structure of the journals are:

1. dedication page

2. table of contents (they add as they go)

3. Re-write, re-draw, summarize, analyze, ask questions on material covered each day.


Journals are checked unannounced 5 times a semester.  Lowest check is dropped, so if they forgot to bring their journal I drop that grade.  Each check is 10 points. 

The following semesters I have implemented a open journal final worth 50 points.

Amy Heck Wed, 10/17/2012 - 3:31pm

I find this very interesting and something that could be incorporated into the speech-language pathology assistant program as a whole.    We offer an anatomy and physiology of the speech and hearing mechanism course as well as a variety of other courses to train someone to be an assistant under the direction of a Speech Language Pathologist.    It would be interesting to incorporate the learning journal into the first block of 3 courses and see what difference it makes.  I think if we did a weekly learning log it could show some interesting results as far as application to our learning outcomes.

Juan Cisneros Sat, 01/25/2014 - 11:06am

The journal activity sounds interesting! It may also give students a chance to reflect on the material.


juan cisneros

ps: I am learning about CATS.

Heather Muns Tue, 02/18/2014 - 12:15pm

I have my students do writer's journals as they read the novels for my courses.  I find that it significantly increases comprehension.  I like the results that you provided.