To foster critical and creative thinking about the course material between class sessions.
Ask students to submit a 2- to 3-page typed, double-spaced diary entry once every two weeks. Anything related to the course is fair game, including:
- Social or societal observations
- Reflections about oneself or others
- Insights about specific forms of prejudice
- Analyses of readings or class discussions
Given the 3-page limit, students are generally best off focusing on one main theme per paper. You might also ask students to attach a "Springboards for Discussion" page with a few questions for class discussion (e.g., on the topic being covered the day diary entries are due).
The diary assignment is most effective if students are challenged to:
- Show that they are keen observers of human behavior
- Make connections between the course material and daily life
- Go beyond the readings, videos, and class discussions to offer their own unique analyses and insights
In other words, rather than simply illustrating course material with examples from current affairs or their own life (as they would in a personal diary), students should be encouraged to create a psychological or sociological diary that delves deeper and takes the course material beyond what has already been covered.
For classes that meet twice or more per week, diary entries may be required every week rather than every two weeks. For classes that meet only once per week, the advantage of a two-week cycle is that instructors can return diary entries with feedback the session after they are submitted, and students can use this feedback to improve their next diary entry.
See Sample Syllabus for a detailed example of this activity.
The springboards students submit can be used in small group or full class discussions, either on the day they're submitted or periodically (e.g., asking students to bring in their best springboards from the past few weeks).