Using Inquiry-Based Learning and Journaling as a Viable Assessment Strategy for Engaged Scholarship

Concurrent Session 1 & 2 (combined)
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Join us to learn how to develop a series of narrative prompts and rubrics that will guide students through the inquiry cycle of experiential learning and effectively reflect on their learning. Participants will leave with a copy of a workbook and strategies for assessing engagement experiences.



Maria Scalzi Wherley is a Learning Designer and Writer-in-Residence with the John A. Dutton e-Education Institute at The Pennsylvania State University. She has over a decade of teaching experience, serving a wide variety of learners a diverse range of subjects. She has also worked at the state level to design curriculum for public schools. Maria holds an M. Ed. In Curriculum and Instruction from Penn State University.
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.
Jane Sutterlin is currently a Learning Designer in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, John A. Dutton eEducation Institute at Penn State University. She joined Penn State in 2012 and collaborates with content specialty faculty in designing and maintaining online, face to face and blended courses. Before she came to Penn State she worked with High School teachers in the State College Area High School as an Instructional Technology Specialist. In collaboration with the teachers, she helped to incorporate technology in meaningful ways into the curriculum. Jane graduated with a Masters in Learning, Design, and Technology and a BS in Elementary Education from Penn State.

Extended Abstract

The practice of journaling can be an effective way to capture the learning and growth that occurs as the result of an engagement experience. However, if students aren’t skilled in relaying the depth and progress of their learning, or are not coached on how to do so appropriately, the importance of the experience may go uncaptured. Carefully crafted journal prompts, designed with inquiry-based learning in mind, along with guidance and the communication of clear expectations can provide a platform for journaling to be a valid learning assessment.

This workshop will equip participants with everything they need to create a system for developing and using journaling to effectively assess student learning and growth during an out-of-the-classroom engagement experience. Participants will leave the workshop with their own copies of the resource Journaling: An Assessment Tool for Student Engagement Experiences and with work they’ve begun on their own materials to create prompts and rubrics. Most important, they will leave with a full understanding of the value of Inquiry-Based Learning as applied to effective and valuable student reflection, the deep insights that result, and the exceptional learning that is born through engagement.     

Participants in this workshop will:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of Inquiry-Based Learning and its relationship to engagement experiences by beginning work on a series of viable journaling prompts and related rubrics for students partaking in outside-of-the-classroom engagement activities.

  • Begin work to adapt the lesson plans in the workbook Journaling: An Assessment Tool for Student Engagement Experiences to fit their individual needs.

  • Exchange ideas with fellow participants and discuss the concepts and recommendations highlighted in this session and in Journaling: An Assessment Tool for Student Engagement Experiences to discover ways those concepts and ideas might be applied to their own assessment plans and practices.

Instructors will introduce the subject of journaling as assessment as intended for use with students partaking in engagement experiences, including an explanation of how Inquiry-Based Learning and this type of journaling fit together, and will share the workbook Journaling: An Assessment Tool for Student Engagement Experiences and examples from instances where this method has been applied (15 minutes). Then we’ll get to work: participants and instructors will work together to help participants develop or adapt plans for using journaling as a viable assessment strategy. Participants should come prepared to share and work with their own plans and/or ideas. Depending on the number of attendees, we can facilitate small group work for participants, with or without the inclusion of one of the instructors. Open discussion and sharing will be encouraged. Participants who do not have their own plans or materials will be asked to engage with scenarios provided by the instructors (55 minutes). A sharing and question/answer period will follow (20 minutes). 

Participants in this session might be teaching faculty or learning designers from any institute of Higher Ed that is interested in or values engaged scholarship, authentic assessment, Inquiry-Based Learning, or student-centered, or active learning. Concepts and ideas from this session might be applied in any course that may incorporate reflective writing assignments, which might be used with a wide variety of students involved in any number of experiences: professional or organizational experiences, internships, study away/study abroad experiences, pre-service teaching, volunteer endeavors, undergraduate research, community-based learning, creative accomplishments, etc.  

This workshop is designed to help instructors improve the value of engagement experiences for students by facilitating a formal journaling structure and process that encourages students to gain deeper insights and to truly learn from their experiences. The core purposes of the workshop are to help instructors provide a platform for journaling to be utilized as a valid learning assessment and to ensure that students’ experiences effectively meet the objectives of their programs or experiences. Engagement experiences become more valuable with the added component of reflection/metacognitive learning. Our aim is to equip instructors with the tools necessary for helping their students to achieve that goal. People will leave this workshop armed with flexible, adaptable plans that are applicable to any number of engagement experiences.

Presenters for this session will use a computer and projector. The ideal setting for the workshop will include tables and chairs where participants and instructors can collaborate in small groups. Presenters will provide participants with copies of the workbook Journaling: An Assessment Tool for Student Engagement Experiences. Participants are required to bring a computer or device or writing implements and paper and an idea and related materials for how they would like to use journaling as a form of assessment.