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Making Journal Entries
The amount of time spent getting students to understand the assignment directly affects the quality of the results. Although an instructor may look at Kaston’s list and quickly see its possibilities, the choices dwarf most students. It takes them a while to comprehend what each of the choices entails. Also, the magnitude of the project and its effect on their grades make students deliberately cautious. Finally, they grasp very quickly that it means they will have to write a lot and this worries them: How will I have time? What does the teacher want? and I’m confused. Unless an instructor walks them slowly through the project, students can become frustrated with it before lifting a pen to paper.
Remind them often that this is a grade they can control. If they follow directions, meet requirements, and write the minimum amounts, they will receive a grade proportional to the amount of prose written. Instructors may create their own minimums, but recommendations are A = 300+ words, B = 200+ words, C = 150+ words, and D = 100+ words per response on average. Based on requirements, amendments to these word counts abound, but if a student writes thoughtful, non-repetitive prose and meets requirements, he or she deserves the grade.
Remember to emphasize that they control the grade. It empowers them.