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Linda,
I have used learning journals in both college English classes and in Education
classes.  What I share with you are thoughts based on these experiences and on
notions gleaned from readings when I was using these journals.

I assigned points to journals mostly to assist in assigning marks, I'm not
convinced that points actually encourage students to do their best work.
Rather, best work comes from the quality of your responses to their entries.
I always tried to respond reader-to-reader rather than teacher-to-student.
Your entries need to be respectful of the student as a person first and a learne
r second, and to serve as a model.  Criticism generally falls on deaf ears.
Remember, the learning journal is a "learning" expereience more than an
evaluation tool.  With this in mind I assign points in the following manner.

                1 pt. / page to a max of 4 pt
                        students can write as many pages as they please
                1 pt for following prescribed format
                2 pts for addressing assigned topic or question
                3 pts for quality of answer

As you can see, just doing the journal as assigned gives the students 70% of
their marks; only 30% is evaluatory in terms of quality.

Selecting specific topics or questions for them to address may be helpful in
getting specific responses.  Students I have worked with tend to focus on
generalities rather than on specifics.  Student imput re topics is also of
value.  Students need to have a personal commitment to learning journals.  It
might be helpful to begin with a discussiion as to their purpose and to
individual goals.  It may help to do the first couple of entries in class
time.

In my responses to student entries, I often focus on one idea or comment and
share my thoughts on it.  Often I will ask questions, most of which are never
responded to, but that's not the point.  The question may or maynot be
important to them.  What is important to me is that my response models the
type of thinking and questioning that promotes learning.

One last thought, allow and encourage students to explore ways other than prose writing
in their journals.  Poetry, drawing and mind mapping ( I'm big into mind
mapping) are excellent ways to record one's thinking.

enjoy your journey,
Jim Force
Mount Royal College
Calgary, AB, Canada
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