For the 3rd year now, the non-biology students who take LSM1303 Animal Behaviour are blogging. The class which usually numbers between 170-200 each make a single blog post as part of their continual assessment. I draw up some guidelines to get them started and these are improved each year.
Writing encourages them to read and communicate beyond their exposure from project work and lectures. Using a blog helps us read easily and allows students to read each other’s posts. it is also a useful submission tool and the Teaching Assistants can access their student’s work by clicking the tags for group numbers.
Despite the briefings, the odd individual or two will plagiarise knowingly or unknowingly. While TAs can spot these easily, we also ship all posts to TurnItIn, for which NUS has a license. Turnitin can be more than a policing tool – it can be setup to allow students to check their own content and learn the difference between plagiarism, paraphrasing and citation in the process.
The posts have improved as a result of the guidelines, but a common problem already evident is the listing of references without referring to them in the text. I will email the class my observations and update the guidelines. They only get assessed next week so they can edit their posts now.
Eventually we will experience and pre-empt most problems in the guidelines and raise the standard and the mark allocation for the CA, which now stands at 7.5%. This supplementary tool can then become more ambitious. For example, I do include the rare student-suggested content in my lectures (the student is acknowledged). In a a more organised manner, student groups can be rostered to blog on the topic of the week with the content discussed in the last 15 mins of the lecture or integrated into the lecture content if possible.
Since this experiment has been progressing, I asked the 2nd year ecology students to blog for the first time. Their posts are due on the 15th of April so we are looking forward to the flood of posts next week about “Ecological observations in Singapore.”