Student blogs as assessments: case study 2, year 2 & year 3 students

In the previous post, I documented my experience of introducing a blog as a summative assignment for year-0 students on the department of history’s Integrated Degree Programme. In this post I want to discuss and examine the results of introducing a similar assignment for year 2 and year 3 students.

The first thing to note is that, at year 2 & year 3 level, the results were startlingly more successful and encouraging than at year 0. Out of fifty submissions, only four students failed and nearly 50% achieved a grade of 60 or above. Two of the seven first-class students achieved a grade of 76 and the overall quality of the work was very high.

As with the year-0 module, the year 2 and year 3 students were given the same twelve-question feedback form in which they rated a series of statements about the blog assignment. Students were asked to provide a rating of between 1 and 5, 1 being the lowest or least positive and 5 being the highest or most positive. Questions were worded in the following manner: ‘How much experience of using blogs did you have before the module?’, ‘In terms of learning about the module subject, how would you rate blogging as a form of assessment?’, ‘In terms of practicalities and ease of use, how would you rate blogging as a form of assessment?’. The survey was voluntary and thirty-seven of the fifty years 2 & 3 students completed it.

Once again, the results of the survey generally concurred with the grades and the ratings of the year 2 and year 3 students were, overall, more positive than those of the year-0 students.

LB Chart

Many more of the students has prior experience of having used a blog and more of them recognised that, through creating and using blog in the module, they were acquiring a useful transferable skill. Interestingly, the year 2 and year 3 students felt that blogging hadn’t been an obstacle to learning about the module subject or fulfilling the learning objectives and they rated highly the freedom for creativity and personal expression that the medium offers.

It was encouraging to see, as with the year 0 students, that both cohorts had felt well supported and that they had felt they had received a good level of tuition on how to undertake the exercise; something which I was very keen to ensure. Encountering any new form of assessment can be disorientating and potentially worrying for students, particularly if it is a summative assignment, and I think it is absolutely imperative that if we expect students to do something we make sure they know how to do it and how to do it well.

In contrast to the year-0 students, the results show that those in year 2 and year 3 had enjoyed the task, had felt engaged with it, rated it highly as a form of assessment, and a good percentage of them felt they were likely to continue blogging afterwards (I’m aware of at least one student who has).

As with the year-0 students, those in year 2 and year 3 were also able to provide comments on the feedback form.  These were generally more positive and the students appeared to have understood and appreciated the intentions and purposes behind the assignment a bit more than the year-0 students had. One of the only negative comments, which was apparently shared by others on the module, was that the blog task was too involved and time consuming for its 40% weighting.

‘It was incredibly useful to try a different method of assessment aside from essays and I feel as though I have gained a transferable skill’.

‘Great idea, really enjoyed blogging. More courses should have this as a form of assessment’.

‘I have enjoyed blogging as part of the course structure, it has given the opportunity to express your own opinion on the subject and draw your own comparisons’.

‘I appreciate the university attempting to be more creative in its assessment processes; however knowing you’re getting assessed on something you are only using for the first time is daunting!’

‘The main thing that riled most people about the course was that for the amount of credits the course gives, you need to do twice the work as is normal to comparable courses’.

I did not, initially, introduce blogging into two different modules at two such different levels in order to undertake a comparative study and analysis of the results of doing so; I did it because I believed they would be an interesting, enjoyable and effective form of assessment with the potential to deliver a range of pertinent skills and knowledge.

Nevertheless, it was extremely useful to run the two modules side by side and to critically monitor and assess the progress of the students as they undertook the task and to garner their views and opinions once they had completed it.

I have learned enormously from their experiences and mine and, in my next (and final) post on these case studies, I will be reflecting on what I learned from them and how I have modified my approach (and altered the blog assignments in both modules) as a result.

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