Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Social Work and Criminal Justice
Child Welfare Special Topic Blog
What was the Project?
Each student was assigned a different Special Topics Blog Assignment. The final blogs were assigned to students by lottery from a list of 75 different topics related to Child Welfare Policy and Practice. Students were given one article on the topic as an introduction. The students were to discuss the topic, not just a summarize the articles. It was my expectation that students would have at least three scholarly sources, one of which may be the article assigned. The blog was to be written in APA format, demonstrate critical thinking, and be well-written. The final Blog was public to their peers in this course. It was worth 20% of the final grade.
Below were the expectations and grading rubric.
The blog should include the following elements:
- A one-page abstract (summary)
- A Reference List with annotated footnotes in the text referring to the Reference List
- At least 3 links to additional materials, articles, websites, videos etc.
- At least 3 images (cite sources with links)
The blog will be graded using the following criteria:
- Extent to which specific content/knowledge of your topic is expressed. Content is complete, accurate, and relevant. (25 points)
- Appropriate use of references to support ideas and perspectives presented. Information is gathered for multiple, researched-based sources. (20 points)
- Demonstration of analytic and critical thinking. Clear evidence of going beyond the texts and materials cited. (25 points)
- Quality of writing, including spelling, grammar, punctuation, organization, and clarity. Writing quality should be crisp, clear, and succinct. The writer incorporates the active voice when appropriate and supports ideas with examples. The writing style should be engaging. (20 points)
- Appropriate use of APA style (5 points)
- Visually Appealing (5 points)
How I Converted the Assignment:
Originally this assignment was a final paper where students submitted the paper to the professor for grading and a one-page abstract and bibliography to a Discussion Board. The intention was for all students in the class to have access to abstracts and bibliographies of multiple topics relating to Child Welfare. The final Blog assignment was submitted in a Discussion Board thread and was also available on SHU blog link. Initially I met with Thomas McGee from TLTC to discuss the logistics of setting up the blog template for the class. He visited my class and provided information to students about the blog assignment and format. I supplied Tom with the list of students in the course, their SHU short name, and their assigned topic. He was then able to create 24 individual BLOG shells for each student. The students then populated the shell with content according to the assignment guidelines. Tom visited my class a second time for a working session, (30 mins) to assist students in their final presentation style and technical difficulties.
Why I Chose this Particular Assignment:
“The blog is a format that allows students to reflect on what they know, further integrate their knowledge, and show their unique understanding to others. Blog posts tend to be qualitatively different from journals and formal academic papers. They allow students to communicate in ways that are personally meaningful and consistent with the current “content creation” aspect of our digital culture. Also, anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that students work harder to prepare work that will be shared with a broader audience than their instructor.” (Kent State online blog resource.) Further, I chose the Special Topics final blog as it provided an opportunity for students to summarize their research/thoughts on a special topic relating to Child Welfare and share their research and opinions with their classmates. Blogs can be used to improve student writing, especially for developing skill in analysis and critique. The blog format is particularly useful for shorter, less formal, assignments. The inclusion and display of multimedia offers an advantage over paper submissions in both engagement and higher-level critical thinking. This assignment also provides a means for students to response to outside-of-class readings that were not adequately covered during class for which they had a particular interest.
As this was the first time assigning a Blog versus a paper I did allow students to submit a final paper in lieu of the Blog if they wished. 17/25 students chose to complete the Blog assignment, 7/25 completed the paper and 1 did not submit either. Of those that completed the Blog the final grade distribution was as follows: A: 11, A- 3, B+ 2, B 1. For those submitting a paper, the distribution was as follows A: 3, B-: 1, C+: 1, C: 1, D: 1 . While it is difficult to determine conclusively why students performed better on the Blog Assignment versus the paper, some reasons may be higher engagement level with material, more creativity and critical thinking, and more time spent completing the Blog versus the paper (more effort). Student reported that they enjoyed the Blog assignment and that once they started, “they got into it.” See below three links to Blog submissions.
Mackenzie McCann: Health Care Coverage for Foster Youth
Samantha Reine: Infant Safe Haven Laws