Assessing Student Blogs

First, you must be clear about what exactly you are assessing and what you expect the students to do. This is true, of course, for all forms of assessment, but when we enter into an untested (pun intended) area such as blogs we must be sure we know what we are doing first.

Before you can even think of assessing a student blog, the students must become familiar with the technology in a non-evaluative way first.


There are arguments both for and against assessing blogs so lets start there first:

Arguments for NOT assessing blogs:

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A blog could be just like a journal and as such we don't want to nor need to assess the blog/journal. We might instead simply want to use the blog to get students to practice writing and to engage in writing. Since some students are reluctant writers, blogging can be a new and enticing way to get them to write. Note that not assessing blogs does not mean not reading the blogs. Student blogs must be monitored to ensure safety of the student and to ensure only appropriate postings are made.

Arguments FOR assessing blogs:

There are many more arguments to be made for assessing blogs. Here are a few:

i. a blog can be used to track a student's work over the course of the year or semester and as such it creates a valuable body of evidence that can be utilized in assessment and evaluation.

ii. a blog can show the synthesis of ideas and critical thinking a student has done on a particular subject or topic. For example, a specific assignment on blogging might be to go and read several news articles on the internet and then form an opinion on a topic. This involves reading, evaluating the quality and reliability of the sources, and writing one's informed opinion based on the articles read.

iii. a blog can be used as an assessment tool at either the diagnostic, formative, or summative level.
Diagnostic: ask the students to share what they know about a given topic before the class begins a unit of study on this topic
Formative: after engaging the class in instruction and discussion of the unit of study, a mid-way point of assessment might be to share what they have learned so far
Summative: as one part of your summative assessment, students can create a blog posting that synthesizes what they have learned and shares learning resources that they have complied via links to the internet.

iv. additionally, blogging can also be used as assessment for/as/of learning:
assessment as learning - students write about what they have learned and as they are writing they are consolidating their knowledge
assessment for learning - students can peer-assess and peer-edit each other's blog postings by leaving comments on each other's blogs. One of the most important features of blogging is that you leave comments on other people's blog postings. The effect on students of having peers reading their blogs is that the quality of writing improves. This has been born out by research in the Blended Learning Pilot that e-Learning Ontario is conducting.
assessment of learning - of course the more traditional form of assessment will work with blogs too. In this traditional form, the students share what they have learned in a test or essay format. Why not change that to a blog posting instead?


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What do the experts say about assessing blogs?








Megan Poore runs "blogging for educators" and has a very, very useful site on how to use and assess blogs. Here's what she has to say:
Citing Jill Walker, Poore lists some "things that work in the classroom when using blogs:
  • Concrete tasks, in classroom
  • Set up tasks where students have to link to each other
  • Insist on feedback to other students
  • The teacher must model good blogging
  • Encourage feedback and editing of posts
  • Set tasks that require reading and linking to other blogs" (Megan Poore)

Poore also cites Susan Hyde who "lays out some DOs and DON’Ts. Do, she says
  • Keep curriculum objectives and specific standards of learning in mind
  • Focus on skills that students have learned in past lessons as well as new areas of instruction
  • Provide students with a copy of the rubric before a writing assignment is begun
  • Encourage students to use the rubric during peer editing
  • Include space for suggestions and words of encouragement
  • Provide examples of writing that meet the standards of the rubric, and discuss these examples in class
  • Use the rubric to keep your scoring and comments consistent to a standard
Susan also says that you shouldn’t:
  • Include items on the rubric that have not yet been explained in class
  • Expect a finished and polished project on early drafts
  • Compare one student’s work with another’s
  • Be afraid to have students help you design a rubric based on provided learning objectives
  • Include subjective or irrelevant items on the rubric. Make the assessment specific to the learning goal" (Megan Poore)



Megan Poore's blogging site for teachers also includes suggestions for assessing several different areas and features of student blogs:

"You can develop your own assessment rubric for each course or class you teach. Possible assessment areas:
Content
  • Ideas
  • Comprehension
  • Intellectual engagement with course
  • Critique
  • Reflection
  • Analysis
  • Creativity
  • Data gathering
Posts
  • Writing quality
  • Relevance of links or embedded media
  • Post frequency
  • Community
  • Comments/visits
Design and admin
  • Organisation
  • Appearance
  • Use of enhancements (if using widgets, etc.)
  • Management and administration" (Megan Poore)


Some Sample Rubrics for Assessing Blogs


Alec Couros, a faculty of education professor at the University of Regina and a past speaker at the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario 2009 Conference, has a sample blog for his students posted here.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting article on what to look for when assessing student blogs. The article and the suggested rubric criteria are geared to higher education, but they give some insight into what to look for at the K-12 level as well. It's a short article and you can find it here.

Konrad Glogowoski's blog on teaching and learning has an excellent posting and a highly unconventional rubric for a grade 8 language arts class assignment on civil rights. Glogowoski's blog is a fantastic learning resource and he is well known in the ed-tech blogging community. You can do no better than starting with his blog here.

A wide selection of various rubrics used for evaluating blogs can be found at this blog site here.