I've covered a lot of ground on this blog, and I think it's time to try to create a summary of what I've done so far. I'm doing this mostly because I have the researcher's chair at the CSU Writing Project Advanced Institute tomorrow, and as you can read on the AI blog, we've decided that it would be a good idea to write a summary of what we're doing in preparation for the group discussion about our research. I debated about whether I should post it to the AI blog itself, as Renee has done, but I decided that I wanted it to be here as a summary of the work I've posted here. Besides, we are definitely filling up the AI blog; it's a bit intimidating at this point, I think, because it's so loaded with good stuff.
I think that the why and how are important questions, which hopefully I'll be able to address soon, but for now I'm going to limit my scope simply to the "what." (Id est, what I've done so far, as opposed to why or how I did it.) So here is a step-by-step summary of my research project.
1. I asked my Sophomore Honors English students to find examples of good and bad web writing and then to post their examples to a blog, along with a brief explanation of why the sample was good or bad. I asked them to find four samples, one that was excellent, one that was decent, one that was bad, and one that was horrible.
2. I compiled their responses and created a rubric for their posts based on the traits that they identified. I weighted each item based on the number of students who identified that trait. So if one student said that good writing is "appropriate," and five students said that bad writing was either "inappropriate" or "used swear words," then the rubric reflected that six points of the assignment would be based on the appropriateness of the student's responses.
Here is the rubric that we created:
Good Spelling and Grammar/No Errors _____/19
Has a Point/Is not Completely Random _____/16
Stays on Topic/Does not Ramble or Digress _____/12
Does not Contain Slang/No Txt Tlk _____/11
Uses Factual Information/Credible Sources _____/11
Is interesting/Funny/Entertaining _____/10
Is not Offensive/No Profanity _____/6
Total Points _______/100
3. I then created a new blog, which contained 18 prompts from the book we were reading at the time A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. If you're interested in what it looked like, check it out by clicking here.
4. We then spent about an hour of class time writing comments in response to the prompts and engaging the issues that I identified in my posts.
5. The next day I gave the students a survey, which asked for their feedback about the project.
6. I am now in the process of analyzing all the data (the blog, the survey, their grades compared to their grades on in-class discussions we had before this assignment, etc.)
7. When I have analyzed the data as much as I can, I will then begin the process of designing next year's class blog discusssion(s).
Some things I already know I will change. I am hoping that I can set it up next year so that the student's write the prompts themselves (in small groups or individually) on their own blogs. That would also mean that we would need to create two different rubrics--one for blog posts, and another for comments.
I also want to change the rubric-design process. I don't think it's that important that they post the actual examples that they find. It's really just the traits of good and bad web writing that I'm looking for. Next year I think I will try to point them in the direction of some good and bad blogs (rather than just saying, "find some blogs on a topic that interests you," as I did this time) and then just ask them to post their top three traits of good and bad web writing to a blog. That would simplify the process and make it more realistic to ask them to design two rubrics in one day.
Finally, I want to expand the activity so that rather than being a one-time deal, it could be something that we go back to for each of the major texts that we read each semester, possibly several times each semester.
I posted my three questions to the AI blog. I'm sure I'll get some good feedback tomorrow and find some ideas to help me keep moving forward with this thing. Thank you!