Engaging students using a simple electronic daily response journal

David A. Reimann

The Journal of Computing in Small Colleges, 17(1):147-157, October 2001.

This paper describes and analyzes a simple mechanism designed to enhance learning by encouraging meaningful class attendance, engaging students inside the classroom, and encouraging critical thinking outside the classroom. A web-based method for a simple journal system is presented that solves some of the logistical problems that occur with paper journals. Each day after class students respond to course material by submitting two important lecture points and one unresolved question via a web form. A simple CGI script ensures a valid submission and places it into a course specific text file with other student responses. Prior to the next class, a processing script is run to convert the responses into a web page accessible to all students. The responses are reviewed anonymously in the following class, providing rapid feedback on important concepts. The daily response journal encourages students to think critically and reflect about their questions, and it promotes discussion that better includes introverted and reflective students. This review time also serves as a focused review of the previous class and provides a nice transition between course topics. Daily responses are posted and available throughout the semester for student reference and review. Students from three courses were given a questionnaire related to the effectiveness of the daily response journal. The results indicate students found the daily response helpful overall. In particular, this format improved clarification and feedback on difficult concepts, facilitated classroom discussion, fostered an inquisitive attitude, gave them a voice in class, made it easier to ask questions, and stimulated their thinking outside the classroom. This method can be easily employed in a wide variety of settings to promote student engagement in the learning process.

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Copyright © 2001, David A. Reimann. All rights reserved.