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A common question in teaching a computer science course is “Is a Journal Entry Template a useful learning tool in a computer science class?” This question requires some explanation because I use journal entries to teach a computer science course.
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I teach a digital science course and one of the things we do is to do a writing exercise about a lesson or topic that the students have learned. Students have many opportunities to do this during the course and some of them, usually, more advanced students will try it but some of them never quite get it.
The first major component is that they do not show their students what they did but allow them to use their own words in the journal. Then, each week, we do a word association test for the students. So, for example, we had a test on the topic of communication.
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One group was asked to write the word before and another group was asked to write the word after. Their assignment was that if they could find the word in the word association test, they could write it in the journal entry.
The first group did a great job of writing an entry on the same topic as the one they had been assigned. The second group was a disaster. They had no idea what the word meant and no clue as to what the word associations were. For example, they wrote the word business and another student wrote the word increase.
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It was during that writing exercise that I realized that the students had been using the word associate but they did not know how to properly perform the word association test. Now they could not correctly identify the word increase even though they had studied the word association test. It was their writing that was bad, not the word association test.
I then instructed the second group to write the word business and ask them to look it up on the internet or a dictionary to see what it means. It was suggested that they use the word instead of writing it in the journal.
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The students learned the lesson and I now use this method to teach a digital science. We do it in a class by making our students write in the journal every week and then we do the word association test to see if they are correctly identifying the word in the exercise.