Posted by: markhowell101 | April 2, 2010

Students blogging and AfL

Whilst for many people using Blogs may now be embedded as part of their routine for teaching, I am yet to actually meet anyone in the 4 schools I have spent time in who have used them. So whilst its something I have wanted to use for a while I had nobody to bounce ideas off so it took its time coming. Whilst this blog is unlikely to offer anyone any technical gems on using blogs I wanted to share it as it represents my major success of the last half term and one which I intend to build on.

I have a high flying year 8 group who have produced a number a superb essay type assessments done in class this year. Whilst these are always great, they are often overly lengthy and for many of the group their challenge is in writing succinctly and concisely and not at great length. I therefore wanted them to do an assessment at home, suspecting that they would spend less time on it than in class and thus producing a piece of work which waffles less than usual. I wanted to ensure that they all did it so suggested that they would be posted on a blog in order to add a little interest on their part.

The task was to write a slave diary for a black African being brought to the USA via the middle passage. The diary was to include capture, the journey, auction and eventually life on the plantations. It was to be written over a 2 week period whilst we were working on the topic of the slave trade. Students were then to email their work to me or bring it in, in a digital format. The work was then posted at http://mrhowellsblog.wordpress.com (please feel free to take a look, be advised that comments are moderated and will only be accepted by students).

Whilst some students struggled with producing a digital copy, around 2/3 of the class managed to do this. A follow up homework was set where pupils were asked to read at least 2 other diaries and comment on them. They were asked to saying something they liked and suggest an area for improvement in each one thus allowing students to use assessment for learning.

I have to say that with a few exceptions students produced work of a very high standard, writing well and without the excessive essays they had been producing. Doing an assessment at home obviously meant 1 or 2 students produced work below their normal capabilities and clearly they will realise this when I eventually give them their levels for this work. A quick look at the comments left by students reveals that the AfL aspect of this needs to be refined with pupils given more guidance on how to comment and perhaps even level each others work. Many of them chose just to read a friends work and praise them on how brilliant they were and whilst this is great it fails to respond to the requirement of constructive criticism. Perhaps the most important thing was the student response which was first class. They genuinely enjoyed producing homework and reading other people work will have allowed them to consider aspects of other peoples extended writing which could be incorporated within their own next assessment.

I would appreciate as ever as comments on this process, the work produced and advice from anyone who has used blogs to great effect and would make suggestions to refine this process. Thanks for reading.

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