Modern Physics

Blogging as formative assessment: what I’ve learned.

GUEST COLUMN | by Hayley Hutchinson

CREDIT Hayley Hutchinson's Physics classroomWhen I introduced blogging to my high school Physics students at the beginning of the school year, they weren’t exactly ecstatic. I thought I had it all planned out perfectly. I outlined clear requirements. I had high expectations. At least once every two weeks, I asked them to post what they felt was the big idea for the unit we were studying, a reflection, a picture they took that demonstrated the concept, a link to a website that had more resources related to the unit, and comments posted to blogs of other students, which were self assigned. I included some guiding reflection questions, although they weren’t limited to them. What did you think before you studied these ideas? What else could you do to find out more? What might you have done to improve your learning? What are some general thoughts you have about class? I posted a list of dates for them to help them keep pace. I answered all the questions they had. Then I watched my seemingly perfect plan fail miserably.

You want them to practice and express creativity, communication, and visual literacy, but don’t forget to include the basic rules of the road.

If you decide to take the leap into student blogging as a means of assessment or student reflection, here’s a list of Dos and Don’ts you might find helpful.

Do:

Talk to your students about the “Why”. Students become more invested when you explain the purpose, not just behind blogging, but every assignment you give in the classroom. I discussed with them how they could find all the “book information” with a few keywords, but skills like summarizing, reflection, and creativity can’t be Googled.

Leave room for improvement without the consequence of a bad grade. Being asked to openly reflect can be challenging. It takes time and practice. Don’t score your students based on the quality of their reflections but instead on their steady improvement. Provide critical feedback that they can use.

CREDIT Hayley Hutchinson's Physics classroom 1Ask them to learn and share something new. My initial idea of finding an additional resource, no matter how much I stressed that it should be compelling, sometimes gave me links to poor websites. I instead asked them to find something new related to the content, something that had not been mentioned in class. It could be a video or a picture or any tidbit of information (properly cited of course). The results were beneficial and I knew they had expanded their knowledge instead of just linking to a random site.

Don’t:

Restrict or assign the comment requirements. I wanted them to read what others had to say, but forcing the issue was the wrong approach. Instead, I linked all the blogs to a main blog that included the requirements and automatically listed links to all recent posts in the sidebar. Commenting on others thoughts was not the main intention anyway.

Give the assignment and then expect them to remember. Revisit it often, if not every class period, and on occasion (if time allows) provide class time for reflection.

Forget to stress the importance of digital citizenship and online safety. Set clear guidelines for posting, commenting, and citing. You want them to practice and express creativity, communication, and visual literacy, but don’t forget to include the basic rules of the road.

Like all good educators, I’ve since revised my plan (a few times) and the results are worth it. Let me know how you do, and feel free to share notes. Contact me at the email below.

Hayley Hutchinson is a Science teacher at USD 260 Derby Public Schools in Derby, Kansas, where she teaches physical science to grades 9-12. Write to: hhutchinson@usd260.com and follow @hayjhutch

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