There are clearly many ways to incorporate blogs into student learning. But, how should a teacher assess student writing in a blog? Julie Meloni brings up a good point in this blog post: because blogs are supposed to be informal, how can we use them to assess student writing objectively, for example on a 5-point scale? If students do use blogs for formal writing, are they really still blogs, or just a replacement for pencil-and-paper essay writing? If we assess them on completion, then what exactly are the criteria for completion? These are all questions a teacher must answer for him or herself before diving into the world of student blogging.
One way to objectively grade any performance-based assignment, e.g., writing, is through the use of a rubric. Not all rubrics are created equally! What works for the purposes of one class does not necessarily work for another. For example, a blogging rubric for an English/Language Arts Class would probably look different than one for my Music class, simply because we would be assessing different standards. An ELA teacher might put a heavier weight of the grade on things like grammar, punctuation, and spelling. While I would include these things in my rubric, I would not weigh them as heavily in the overall grade. That said, there should be some common themes for assessing student blogging. For example, Mark Sample created a 5-point scale for assessing critical thinking in blog posts. I think this is a great example of an aspect of blogging that can be assessed in any subject or any grade level, because the whole point of student blogging is to get them thinking critically about their learning. He goes on to say that the rubric should have transparency: the students should know and understand how they are being graded.
The University of Wisconsin, Stout's rubric covers many different areas, including the blogginess of blogging. Did the student consider her audience? Did she use timestamps and tags to chronicle and categorize her post? Is she posting often or infrequently? Did she include links to other websites? Did she include graphics and multimedia elements? Did she use proper citations for all her linked and referenced material? I think these are all important aspects for consideration. If students are not using blogs as real blogs with all that they offer, then why have them use blogs at all? Including these elements in the rubric assures that the students will not only learn to utilize these features of blogs, but also know how to execute them well.
Because the commenting feature of blogs is one of the most unique and influential aspects of blogging, students should also learn how to construct meaningful and collaborative comments on others' blogs in order to gain the full experience of blogging. Kathleen Morris goes so far as to say students should learn how to comment before learning how to create their own posts. She suggests a process in which students begin by practicing with comments on teacher-written posts, followed by assisting the teacher in writing posts, creating their own posts on the teacher/class blog, and finally creating and authoring their own blogs; all the while, students continue to practice quality commenting. This rubric does a great job outlining what exactly constitutes quality commenting.
After viewing these sample rubrics, I created my own rubric to asses student blogging in my classroom. It includes blogginess elements as well as critical thinking both in the student's original post and in comments on others' posts. I also weighted each category based on what I thought was most important.
Franker, K. (2012, January 17). A rubric for evaluating student blogs. Uwstout.edu. Retrieved January 25, 2014 from https://www2.uwstout.edu/content/profdev/rubrics/blogrubric.html
Meloni, J. (2009, August 13). Integrating, evaluating, and managing blogging in the classroom [Web log post]. Retrieved January 23, 2014, from http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/integrating-evaluatingmanaging-blogging-in-the-classroom/22626
Morris, K. (2012, January 15). Setting up student blogs [Web log post]. Retrieved January 25, 2014, from http://primarytech.global2.vic.edu.au/2012/01/15/setting-up-student-blogs-2/
Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful Web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Publishers.
Sample, M. (2010, September 27). A rubric for evaluating student blogs [Web log post]. Retrieved January 23, 2014, from http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/a-rubric-for-evaluating-student-blogs/27196#
Tolisano, S. (2011, December). Commenting rubric. Langwitches.org. Retrieved January 25, 2014 from
Utecht, J. (2010, June). Blogs as web-based portfolios. Thethinkingstick.com. Retrieved January 22, 2014 from http://www.thethinkingstick.com/images/2010/06/Blogs-as-Web-Based-Portfolios.pdf