Students had time to compose their thoughts, language anxiety was reduced, and students took chances.
Several developed their thesis research based on ideas developed in blog posts
Not everyone loved the blog.
I thought it was a little tedious and lacked direction. . . . The instructions were too vague and there were no guiding questions. It was not fun when I didn’t have any topic in mind to write about.Survey respondent
The above survey response reminded me that everyone comes to a learning situation with their own expectations for what will work for them as learners and this can influence how open they will be to novel approaches that do not necessarily align with those expectations.
Despite the different reactions to the course, I felt that the sense of cohort in the class was the strongest and most supportive I have ever experienced, even though it was one of the biggest classes I’ve taught (the biggest grad course) – students took chances, listened to each other, challenged each other to see things differently, and helped each other. In their in-class group work, they took risks, tried new ways of engaging with their peers, and pushed us to keep asking questions. Some of the students developed their final course assignments (which could be research papers, websites, or poster presentations) and thesis projects based on a blog post and the discussion around it (e.g., Melissa decided to do her Master’s thesis research as a blog, Ramblings of a Linguaphile).
Overall, the blog became a space where students could develop (or nurture) identities as writers and become part of a learning community because they were writing, not just to display knowledge to the prof for marks, but to engage an audience, connect with readers, share ideas.
After this new pedagogical venture, I am no longer convinced that a model that emphasizes displaying knowledge to a singular audience is best serving our students. Now, over to you!