January, 2017, Initial Teacher-Research Results

I have been working on coding the first half of student responses (blogged discussions). These blog posts reveal what I had heard students say in class – they hadn’t done the reading. I originally set out to identify differences between face-to-face versus blogged discussions of a complex reading as evidenced through higher-level thinking skills in post-conversation writings; however, I am finding other things in their posts that seem more interesting to me.

My experience teaching high school told me that students will not always complete a reading assignments for in-class discussion unless there is a writing assignment tied to it. For this reason, I have been assigning one-page, written reflections on every reading, but I worry that this is preventing some autonomy and responsibility among my college students. It also becomes a lot of work for me to read 75-100 pieces of writing twice a week. Part of what I wanted to determine was if students would be prepared to discuss a reading if they were only assigned the reading and asked to come in ready to discuss it. Granted, I created some problems by postponing the discussion by one class period; however, many students blogged that they did not complete the reading because there was no writing assignment with it. This was one finding that was not part of my original research question, but seems to confirm my original thinking. Eight of 20 students read, eleven did not, and one did not say whether she read or not.  I still need to look more closely at their comments.

This leads me to another interesting finding. While I wanted students to reveal their levels of thinking about the article, the majority of the blog posts discussed strategies to appear to have read the assignment. Sixteen of the blogs reflected what I call “strategizing.” Some of these talked about quickly skimming the article, looking at a classmate’s notes or highlighting, or even just speaking generally and vaguely about the topic, so the instructor would not realize the student had not read the article. This reminds me of an article I read last year (I need to find this again) by a FYW instructor who spent a semester auditing a FYW class. She found that the majority of student-writing consisted of “writing to not write.” She claimed that this was in texts to friends and classmates about avoiding or not doing the assigned writing or in emails to the instructor about why they were not able to complete assignments. I remember thinking how odd that was when I first read the article, but I am reminded of it when I realize that the blogging I asked students to do about an article turned into blogging about how to “fake it till you make it” as when student blogged. I need to look further into this.

In terms of higher level thinking skills, students were most likely to reach only the first level of “remembering” (recall). While only seven reported reading the article, fifteen had post-discussion blogs that reflected this level of recall. Many of these students reported they were helped by reading the posts of group members who had actually read the article. Notably, “remembering” was the highest level reached among those relying on posts of their classmates. Overall, only two students wrote to reflect the level of “analyze,” the highest level reached by anyone in the class. No student blogs showed “evaluating” or “creating” which are at the top of “The Cognitive Process Dimension” that I am using to assess levels of thinking.  I wonder if higher levels would have been achieved if more students had read and written posts discussing the reading assignment instead of strategies to appear to have read.

I also wonder if this strategizing does actually reflect a high level of thinking. This seems to be a “real-world” skill that shows a savvy and ability to compensate and overcome potential difficulties. I may want to look for research on these correcting behaviors or strategizing (I’m not sure what to call them).

Ok, I still have a lot to look at, including the blogs from post face-to-face discussion of the second article where they did have a writing assignment with the reading assignment.

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