Our Blackboard VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) is a sandboxed, safe learning environment. Using Journals allows students to blog their ideas, reflections and difficulties secure in the knowledge that only The Lecturer can see their Journal posts. For lecturers, it gives us ‘an insight into student philosophy’. It’s simple technology – for lecturer and student! It works!
This strategy was originally developed by a Physics professor at the
of California, Berkeley
(cited in Davis, Wood, & Wilson, 1983), then popularized by Cross and
Angelo (1988) as one of a wide variety of quick “classroom assessment
techniques” (CATs) - designed to provide instructors with anonymous feedback on
what students are learning in class. For example, students write a one-minute
paper in response to such questions as, “What was the most important concept
you learned in class today? Or, “What was the ‘muddiest’ or most confusing
concept covered in today’s class?”
I use Minute Papers at the END of classes, especially to identify ‘the muddiest point’. Though we insist that ‘there are no stupid questions’, students can remain reluctant to ask for help. Blackboard Journals allows students to tell us what they really don’t understand (often something really simple). It takes 5 minutes to scan through Minute Papers for a class of 30 students – really guiding the start of the next session…
Students are often reluctant to tackle a critical evaluation for a project, tending to leave it till the end, when the project is done! Using Blackboard Journals, students can be ‘prompted’ to make entries on particular aspects of a Critical Analysis (‘Audience’ or ‘Issues of Representation’ etc.). The lecturer can feedback in Journal Comments, further prompting (or guiding) the student reflection. We might ask for a post, or two posts per week…
Students like the asynchronous nature of this (it allows them to post entries at all hours AND it allows lecturers to respond and comment ‘out of hours’. Students can post images, link to video!
Student Self Assessment
At the end of a module, ask the students to post a Blackboard Journal entry on their personal reflections. You might ask the students ‘what’s missing from your project’? Get students to ‘suggest an Alpha Grade’ for themselves…
‘guided self assessment’
Assess the student projects and assign an Alpha grade. Then post your assessment feedback (Strengths, Areas For Development and Recommendations) to the student. Ask them to read through your feedback and suggest an Alpha grade for themselves.
Self-Assessment (guided or unguided) checks student understanding of our learning Outcomes and Criteria For Assessment. Assessment is a learnt behaviour – students and lecturers need to practice it! All students self-assess, but Journals provide hard documentary evidence. You’ll be surprised to find how many of the students will give themselves the exact grade you gave them!
Peer and Group Assessment
At the end of a Group Project, ask the students to post a Blackboard Journal entry on their personal reflections. I use questions developed by Palloff and Pratt (2007, p.184)… ‘How well did I participate in my group? Was I a team player? Did I make a significant contribution? Did I share my portion of the work load? How comfortable do I feel with the group process? Did I feel comfortable expressing any problems or concerns openly? Did I provide substantive feedback to other group members? How do I feel about the collaborative work produced by my group? How well did the collaborative process contribute to my learning goals and objectives for this course? I’ve added a question about communication… ‘How well did my group communicate, with each other and with others?’
Ask each student to post an Alpha Grade for themselves and for each of their peers (the other group members). You can suggest that they can ‘add a few lines of individual comment, observation or clarification’ about their fellow group members.
Lecturers can use this student reflection and assessment (self and peer) to guide their own comments, feedback and grading.
Palloff and Pratt (2007) ‘Building Online Learning Communities: Effective Strategies for the Virtual Classroom’ (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Higher and Adult Education)