06 SES 03 A, Using, Studying & Cheating
Blogging can be understood as a way to reflect on and process problems (Reupert and Dalgarno, 2011). Nackerud and Scaletta (2008) noted that there were students who blogged, before student blogging was encouraged. There are limited instances of using blogposts for assessment in higher education (for one example, see Bryan and Clegg, 2019). This presentation considers the use of blogposts to integrate authentic social networking practice into higher education assessment. Fry et al. (2014) have commented on how students posing comments on their peers’ blogposts can be a form of peer assessment and can help the learning of the student making the comments. Robertson (2011) has reported that blogs can enhance self-directed learning skills such as the generation of learning goals by students, planning how to deal with a problem, evaluating their learning goals and then re-planning. Writing blogs, like journal writing, can be used to enhance reflective practice by students (Ray and Coulter, 2008). As in Robertson’s (2011) study, most of the students in the course being researched, had, prior to the pandemic, face-to-face interactions as well as virtual exchanges.
The researched course is ‘Professional Learning and Inquiry’, a 3rd-year undergraduate course. Assessment comprises eight blogposts (totalling 4000 words) in the institution’s virtual learning environment (Blackboard). Topics and assessment criteria for the blogposts are provided and students can see each other’s posts and are asked to provide peer feedback. Documents, weblinks and photographs can be inserted into the posts or as appendices. Students can edit or upload new versions of their blogposts up until the deadline. The students do not mark or grade each other’s blogposts. Thus, this type of peer assessment activity relates to analysis and feedback with no grades given (Reinholz, 2016).
The research question addressed in this presentation is: What effect do blogposts for summative assessment have on part-time distance learning students?
Peer assessment can support self-assessment and learning. Peer assessment has been defined as ‘a set of activities through which individuals make judgements about the work of others’ (Reinholz, 2016, p.301). It generally comes from students on the same course (Topping, 1998) and distinguishes peer assessment from other activities such as peer mentoring or coaching. An important part of the rationale for the introduction of the blogposts was for the students to comment on each other's blogposts thereby learning through the act of assessing another's work so that when they returned to their own work they would see it through the eyes of a third party in the same way as they had looked at their peer's work (Reinholz, 2016). The aim was to create inner assessment of their own work having already acted as a third party with their peer’s work. Sim and Hew (2010) recommendations on the use of blogs in higher education were used: Icebreaking activities; Restricted access to the blogs; Practice sessions and guidelines; and Extrinsic and/or intrinsic motivation to take part.
This form of assessment, and opportunity for peer assessment, is currently used by very few higher education staff in the UK or other European countries. This innovation will be of interest to higher education teaching staff and learning technologists in Europe and beyond as it promotes blogging as a professional development tool, it enables students to undertake the process of assessment in a safe and controlled way and it modernises the assessment task by moving away from the tyranny of the 3000 or 6000-word essay to work which has to be concise and is more likely to reflect the writing length required in today's workplaces. Thus, the assessment task provided authentic practice for higher education students.
A pragmatic methodology was adopted with a mix of data collection methods including a questionnaire, the institution's course evaluation forms and informal feedback from students via email and from a tutorial discussion. Informed consent was obtained from all participants' whose opinions were sought, stored and analysed, irrespective of the method of data collection. Furthermore, only former students were included in the research in order to reduce the ethical issues and potential lack of voluntary consent that can take place when current students are asked to take part in research by their tutors. Course results and the pass rate were also tracked over time so that the effects of introducing blog posts for assessment could be compared more robustly with previous results. As Sim and Hew (2010) have noted, there is a lack of longitudinal studies on this issue. Twenty-seven former students who had been on the ‘Professional Learning and Inquiry’ course, or another course run by the same tutor with blogposts as an assessment type, were emailed with a link to an online questionnaire which contained closed and open questions. The results of the questionnaire and the students' remarks on their course evaluation forms, in private emails and class discussions (with relevant permissions), showed overwhelming support for the use of blogposts. Due to the small sample size of the study the qualitative data has been focused on with examples of comments from students being analysed to determine why this particular form of assessment was successful in improving both the pass rate and the overall mean and median marks. Students had suggestions on how to improve the use of the blog tool, such as being permitted to see blogs from the previous year’s students, earlier exposure to ‘the world of blogs’ so that students could see ‘how each blog could be standalone yet drawn together as one piece’. I used Brookfield’s (1995) four lenses (students/self/peers/theory) to reflect on (1) the students’ experiences, (2) my own experience, (3) that of colleagues including the second marker and external examiner, and (4) through academic literature. Using Sim and Hew’s (2010) recommendations on the use of blogs in higher education, I considered the Professional Learning and Inquiry course and noted that more guidance could have been provided, e.g. example blogs written by practitioners in their field, previous students’ work (with their consent), a step-by-step process of how to add photos etc.
The range and level of results for the new merged course did not change dramatically, for example, the mean from the previous two courses over two years was 14.1 (out of 22); the mean for the first three years of the new course with blog posts rose to 15.3. Students understood and felt more confident about handling the assessment and gave each other emotional and cognitive support (Robertson, 2011). The students liked this assessment method because firstly, it broke the task into 'manageable chunks' (respondent 9). This is perhaps not surprising as the students are all in full-time work who are studying part-time, often alongside caring commitments. Time and lack of time were referred to by many respondents. Secondly, because students could peer assess this took away some of their assessment fear. Thirdly, it meant they addressed all the assessment criteria leading to a higher pass rate for the course. Finally, it was noted ‘Taking each element as a stand-alone piece with the ability to connect them together as a fuller piece of writing also helped build my confidence for writing larger essays’ (respondent 15). This authentic method of assessment enabled peer and inner assessment by the students. Ways to improve the use of blogging include building on the recommendations of Freeman and Brett (2012), whose findings led them to suggest that, for students on an online course, in order to scaffold writing as authentic blogging practice, it is necessary to focus on the frequency of writing, the level of resonance a topic has in relation to students’ own interests, and the timeliness of their entries. With the move to more online teaching and assessment it will be useful for educators across Europe to understand this assessment tool.
Brookfield, S D (1995) Becoming a Critically Reflective Practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Bryan, C. and Clegg, K. (2019). Innovative Assessment in Higher Education. A Handbook for Academic Practitioners, (2nd Edition). Routledge: London. Freeman, W and Brett, C (2012) Prompting authentic blogging practice in an online graduate course. Computers & Education, 59, 1032–1041. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2012.03.019 Fry, H., Ketteridge, S. and Marshall, S. (2014). A Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Enhancing Academic Practice. (4th edition). Routledge: London. Nackerud, S., and Scaletta, K. (2008). Blogging in the Academia. New Directions for Student Services, 124, 71–87. https://doi.org/10.1002/ss.296 Ray, B. B., and Coulter, G. A. (2008). Reflective practices among language arts teachers: The use of weblogs. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 8(1), 6–26. Reinholz, D. (2016). The assessment cycle: a model for learning through peer assessment. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education,41 (2), 301-315. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543068003249 Reupert, A., and Dalgarno, B. (2011). Using online blogs to develop student teachers’ behaviour management approaches. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 36(5), 48–64. https://doi.org/10.14221/ajte.2011v36n5.4 Robertson, J. (2011). The educational affordances of blogs for self-directed learning. Computers & Education, 57(2), 1628–1644. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2011.03.003 Sim, J W S, and Hew, K F (2010) The use of weblogs in higher education settings: A review of empirical research. Educational Research Review, 5(2), 151-163. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2010.01.001 Topping, K. (1998). Peer Assessment Between Students in Colleges and Universities. Review of Educational Research, 68(3), 249–276. DOI: 10.3102/00346543068003249
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