Blogging, Student Engagement, and Student Success

Stephen Brauer,  Associate Professor of English and American Studies, St. John Fisher College

This research project focused on the creation and integration of a blog into an English 101 college-level course in order to encourage and create greater student engagement in the course and to foster greater student success. Students wrote blog posts on “Sport in American Culture” – the focus of the English 101 course – as a way to use the informal writing space of social media to generate, explore, and test out ideas in a low-stakes environment. For the last unit of the course, however, students were asked to write a research paper on a topic of their own choosing, and the blog served as a primary site for topics that the students then developed into focused research questions and a finished essay.

The results of the project were interesting. Although a majority of students wrote often and were fairly engaged in the blog, more students than I would have hoped wrote on the blog less often than I would have hoped. However, I asked the students to write a self-reflection memo about the value of the blog in connection with their research paper and the great majority lauded the blog as the origin of their paper – either in terms of what they had written or in terms of what they had read. The student self-evaluations at the end of the semester, anonymously done, confirmed that the students believed the blog to have been a very positive experience for them in terms of helping them think further about the course and in terms of helping them as a writer.

The results of the project suggest that the informal writing space of the blog holds great potential for educators as a means of fostering student engagement. Creating a space for students that they have “ownership” over, a space that they can write what they think or what they respond to going on in the world around them, offers students a chance to recognize writing not only as the product of their thinking but as the very means through which they think and make meaning. Once young men and women recognize that writing is not only the product of their ideas but the actual means of producing ideas, they will have the potential to realize the power of writing strategies and the power of the word to persuade. This is, of course, a giant step, but the process is crucial. The recognition of the process of writing is the means of arriving at the end product. The blogging project begun here suggests that there is the potential to use the power of social media to encourage greater student engagement in the course material and to ultimately foster greater student success.  For the complete report on this project, please see Blogging, Student Engagement, and Student Success.


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