The high school I teach at has a student-run newspaper, yearbook, literary and art magazine, and even a foreign language publication! One germ of an idea that I had months ago has recently become something I have gotten passionate about pursuing: an online academic journal. (Open source journals exist.)
Think about it. Students pour their heart and souls into research papers. Okay, let me rephrase: some students pour their heart and souls into research papers. These papers are usually only read by their teachers. I think having a yearly, online academic journal for my school could really be a blessing for students and teachers alike.
5-8 students and 2 faculty members will be the editors of the journal, which will initially be published once a year. Upper school students will be encouraged to submit year round any non-fiction pieces they’ve written and are proud of. This includes research papers for classes, papers they’ve done for independent studies, or excerpts of their senior theses. I would expect that most of the papers would come from English or History or Art History classes, but I think that research papers are written in both the Chemistry and Bioethics classes. Also, students working on investigative problems in Math Club could submit. Basically any non-fiction piece written by a student would be eligible for submission.
From the student perspective, the journal provides an outlet for students to shine, and showcase work that they’re particularly proud of. Plus, it feels good to have good work acknowledged. It’s too often that we forget to praise the good, and so often that we focus on the bad.
From the teachers’ perspective, an academic journal could act as a pedagogical tool in at least four different ways:
- Teachers could recommend that students submit their papers when they have done a particular stellar job. Positive reinforcement does the trick, yet again.
- It could also act as a way to get students who did well on a paper to ask themselves “how can I make this better?” before submitting to the journal. It sets a higher bar of expectation for students.
- At the same time, creating an archive of strong research papers could provide a set of exemplars that a teacher could direct students to. (“If you are wondering what a strong and narrow thesis statement looks like, see this paper written by StudentX on Invisible Man.”)
- The editors’ discussions over which papers to admit and to reject will not only expose student work to people other than the student and the teacher, butit will also force a critical analysis of student work. In other words, the discussion and scholarly debate that will revolve around this publication itself will be a great learning experience
Lastly, this type of journal, allowing non-fiction pieces from any department, would be the first glimmers of cross-disciplinarity at my school, where departments are independent islands which each reign supreme.
Certainly there are kinks that need to be worked out. But to me, in my vision, the benefits far outweigh the costs .
 This is intended to be a bit of an exceedingly weak pun, because actually, the monetary cost of the journal is negligible, since it will be an online journal.
Update: After reading this post, I really want this journal (if it ever comes to fruition) to have its name change with every volume!