Dr Rachel Shanks, School of Education

Dr Rachel Shanks, School of Education tells us about her use of blog posts within Blackboard Ultra as an assessment method replacing essays.

Overview

In the part-time programme, BA in Professional Development, two 15-credit courses (Professional Development 3 and Action Inquiry) were merged into a new 30-credit course ED302F Professional Learning and Inquiry. The courses were merged following student feedback that studying two separate courses at the same time as working full-time etc. made studying more difficult. The 15-credit courses were both assessed through a 3000-word essay while the new course is assessed through 4000 words written in a series of 8 blogposts of 500 words each in MyAberdeen. Topics and assessment criteria for the blogposts are provided to the students.

Activity

Each blogpost required in ED302F Professional Learning and Inquiry relates to a specific assessment criterion. Students see each other’s blogposts and are asked to post comments on at least two other students’ blogposts, thus providing peer feedback. The aim is that through posting feedback, students will pay closer attention to the assessment criteria and then, on returning to their own work, their ability to self-assess their own work will be improved. The course tutor posts on the first version of a blogpost up until the week before the hand-in date. Students can edit and/or upload new versions of their blogposts up until the hand-in date. To submit the work for summative assessment the students collate all the blogposts into one document and upload it to Turnitin. Each blogpost is marked separately using the CGS scale and then the overall grade is calculated as an average of these marks.

Impact

Students are now able to do their work gradually rather than all at the end of the half-session in two longer essays; their work is more focussed as they cover each topic they are meant to, rather than writing too much for one part of an essay and not covering one of the assessment criteria.

While the effect on the range of results for the new merged course has not changed dramatically, the mean from the previous two courses over two years was 14.1 (out of 22) and the mean for the first three years of the new course with blogposts has risen to 15.3, there has been a reduction in those having to resit as no one has failed in the new format. I believe this is because each blog post covers a specific assessment criterion meaning it is difficult to do the blogposts without addressing all the criteria.

Evaluation

After the introduction of the blogposts for assessment students’ views were sought by email, in a tutorial in the following half-session as well as through the usual course evaluation channels. Students have all been positive:

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.”

I found it really helpful to be able to see other’s people submission, reassured me I was on the right track with my submissions.”

I thought the blog posts was a great assessment tool. It made it clear and manageable and easy to upload. It was good that classmates could comment and give feedback on these also.”

The previous and current external examiner have also been very supportive of the use of blogposts for summative assessment.

Dissemination

I presented at the 2019 Teaching and Learning Annual Symposium on my use of blogposts and gave a presentation at the Advance HE Symposium on Assessment at York in November 2019. I have delivered a seminar at Napier University and written a paper entitled ‘Using blog posts for peer to peer learning and summative assessment’ for the Advance HE publication ‘On Your Marks: Learner-focused Feedback Practices and Feedback Literacy’. Rather appropriately, I also wrote a blogpost for Advance HE as part of the activities to launch the publication and I presented to around 350 people at the Connect Event webinar ‘On Your Marks’: Vignette Presentations on Learner-Focused Feedback Practices and Feedback Literacy’ on 25th August 2020.