Assessing Student Engagement: A Universal Approach to Journaling

Concurrent Session 3

Brief Abstract

The session will explore the idea of universal journal prompts and rubrics. Attendees will be asked to discuss potential ideas for journal guidance and assessment that are broadly applicable to a wide range of student engagement activities.


Haley Sankey is a faculty member, adviser and Program Coordinator for the online Bachelor of Arts in Energy and Sustainability Policy, instructing EGEE 495: Internship Experience, EGEE 299: Foreign Studies, and EM SC 302: Orientation to Energy and Sustainability Policy. She is also an adviser for the World Campus Sustainability Club, an online student-run organization. Haley received her master's degree in project management from the Penn State Black School of Business. She earned her B.S. from Juniata College, where her program of emphasis was environmental practice and policy.

Extended Abstract

Student engagement has been proven to increase retention and student success. “…students who actively participate in various out-of-class activities are more likely to connect with an affinity group of peers, which is important for student retention, success, and personal development” (Zhao, C., & Kuh, G., 2004). However, it can be difficult for students to take advantage of engagement opportunities, especially in an online environment. Support for engagement programs is hard to garner without data that demonstrates the benefits and knowledge gained by students. Refining journaling exercises to provide measureable outcomes will enable faculty to better collectively assess and quantify the impact of engagement experiences, thereby also providing administrators with data to present to donors, etc.

Can universal assignment prompts and rubrics be developed to adequately capture where student’s experiences fall within Kolb’s Cycle of Experiential Learning? As part of an Annual Program Assessment, a survey of existing resources to both guide students in creating quality journal entries and assess the learning from student engagement was conducted; it was found that available resources are typically designed to be applicable to a particular engagement activity, not broadly applicable to student engagement activities across the board.

For the 45 minutes of Discovery Session, the facilitator would like to elicit ideas from peers regarding the development of guidance and assessment tools broadly applicable to student engagement activities that include a journaling assessment component. Some questions posed to participants would include:

•           What experience have others had with innovative journaling prompts, effective at drawing out student learning and reflection?

•           What would universally useful journal assignment prompts look like?

•           What are the indicators of student learning from engagement experiences? What are the best practices to recognize and capture student learning?

•           What might a universal journaling rubric look like?

Discussing the potential for universal prompts and rubrics could ultimately produce some guidance to enable any practitioner, anywhere, to similarly measure the outcomes of an engagement experience using journaling as an assessment tool. This guidance could be a step towards enabling faculty to better collectively assess and quantify the impact of engagement experiences, thereby also providing administrators with data to present to donors, etc. The Discovery Session will assist in advancing research in the area of student engagement and using journaling to assess outcomes, further building a community of practice and further standardizing the experiential learning evaluation. Additionally, long term, a collective assessment tool would help measure impacts, curricula, and the overall success of engagement experiences.

Practitioners that are experienced in utilizing journal assignments for assessments are well versed in the challenges associated with understanding the level of learning as it is conveyed in journal submissions. Considering the questions posed above will open the door for experience sharing at the Discovery Session. Examining the idea of developing universal prompts and rubrics will provide guidance on further study and conception development in this area for the facilitator especially, but also for the colleagues with similar journaling assessment interests.