Blog Period 1, 2012

Two grad students and I have just finished marking the 484 entries and 1245 comments that made up the first blog period.  Learning from last year, we called things as they actually were, particularly using the descriptors A=excellent, B=good, C=acceptable, D or worse=unacceptable.  This generated the following grade distribution.

A-, 2; B+, 12; B, 21; C+, 37; C, 33; D, 21; Fails, 23 (consisting of six who barely showed and 17 who did not show at all).
That was an average score of 75% (C+) among those who did something.  Among the top scorers were some really good efforts.  We enjoyed polyphasic sleep, brain implants, and smart pills for students.  There is also some amazing stuff dug up.  My favorite was the headless chicken. Not sure I believe it though.
What takes the time grading the blog is giving the individualized feedback (students, you can see yours on the Angel site).  I really hope students read and think about those comments. Nothing is more depressing than finding myself writing the same comments to a student after the next blog period.
The most common issues were Comments that are no more than personal reaction. I do try to tell the students that this is not Facebook. Extend the discussion in new directions. That usually means bringing to bear some new sources or new arguments supported by new sources. The most common problem with the Entries is that they were too simple. The rubric says that for an A, we need entries that “are conceptually sophisticated, engaged in a substantial way with the material”…”that extends beyond the [source] material”.  For me, this is easiest done when you try to ask a question, synthesize across sources and do some serious research. Hard not to feel the majority of students just want to post the minimum required and get on with something else. I think the grades reflect that.
For students wanting to improve: read your personalized feedback, read these, and check the wise words of wisdom from your TAs. I think writing is hard work, and needs thought.  Do a post a week, and put some effort into each one.  You’ll be surprised how rewarding you’ll find it.
You might also try getting out of your comfort zone a bit.  So you are a basefall fan? Great to write about the science of baseball.  But also write about something you know nothing of…there’s magic in investigating new things.

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