Blogging As Assessment

Guest Blogger Series

Hi, I’m a first-time blogger.

by Sherry Mohr, MLIS

Writing in the first person seems extremely unnatural to me.  I’m horrible at cover letters, blogging, and expressing my opinion about topics within a discussion board.  Funny considering I spent four years of my undergraduate studies writing, analyzing, and expressing my theories, and another two as a distance learner for my MLIS program.  As an educator in a tech-based world, I’ve discovered that writing in the first person is one way I can relate to my students and vice versa.  It’s one way they can learn to express themselves and synthesize the content I am teaching.  More importantly, it’s a more efficient way of assessing their comprehension of the material.

Hayley Hutchinson, a high school physics teacher, recently posted an article on ISTE about blogging as a way for students to create digital citizenship, reflect, and self-assess.

Okay, wait.  I know what you’re thinking.

Why would physics students blog and how would you assess their understanding of physics material through a blog post?

Written assessment isn’t only for students of the humanities.  It’s essential that all students learn how to express themselves verbally and with the written word. Comprehension of material can be assessed in multiple ways, and as a way to break out of the traditional mode of assessment through testing, Hutchinson posed the sample reflection questions to her students: “What did you think before you studied these ideas?” “How could you find out more?” “What might you have done to improve your learning?” and “What do you think about the class?”

Simple questions, right?

Hutchinson thought so as well, and then discovered that her lesson plan failed.  Like a good student of science, Hutchinson converted this failure into a successful learning lesson and revised her teaching strategies.  She suggested the following six strategies based on her experience:

1.     Discuss the purpose of the blogging assignment

2.     Focus your critiques on improvement

3.     Ask students to learn and share something new

4.     Make commenting an option, not a requirement

5.     Set aside class time for reflection

6.     Emphasize digital citizenship and online safety

You can learn more about these six strategies here.

Nowadays it’s way too easy for students to find information through Google and other databases.  However, these search engines will not teach them how to synthesize their findings.  Blogging is one strategy that teaches students how to critically analyze the information they are receiving and convert it into new ideas.  As educators, we know we need to move beyond information regurgitation.  You can’t truly know if a student has synthesized material until you ask them to explain it; sometimes explaining the material can be even harder than memorizing it.  The written word is also a great way for students to discover their voice.

Writing this was a great exercise for me in blogging.  I read articles about new teaching strategies all the time.  However, as I’ve discovered while writing this post, reading the information is much easier than writing about it.

 

How have you found blogging to be helpful with your teaching?  How has it worked or failed?

 

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