Class Assignment: Blog Review and Rubric

In the past, I’ve typically asked students to do a book review in my “Introduction to International Studies”

Image of globe courtesy of digidreamgrafix at freedigitalphotos.net

Image of globe courtesy of digidreamgrafix at freedigitalphotos.net

course. But as students have increasingly moved to using alternative media sources to get their information, I want to make sure that they are thinking critically about these sources. For this reason, I’ve required that my students this quarter write a review (four pages in length) of one international blog. I’ve told the class that the blog review should be a critical look at the blog, which follows the same basic format as a book review. The review asks what the writer is trying to do, and how well do they do it. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the blog? Once that question is answered, then can explore particular questions the blog raises, connections to the class, etc. But the core of this project is a critical evaluation of the blog itself, rather than a summary of its content. 

What surprised me was that when I first introduced the assignment, many students did not know what a blog was. I had assumed that many of them were already following blogs. Many of them wanted to mainstream media sites or commercial websites (such as for a sneaker company). I asked that they find a blog that was a website managed by a single person, or at most a few people,  who posted on an international topic. Many newspapers have “blog” sites run by people affiliated with the paper (such as the Financial Times), but the goal of the assignment was to identify a non-traditional source of information. To assist them, I gave them this list of international blogs, just to serve as an example:

Interested in infectious disease, viruses or global health? Here are a few blogs:

www.wired.com/wiredscience/superbug

afludiary.blogspot.com

www.scottmcpherson.net/

www.iayork.com/MysteryRays/

www.virology.ws/

Curious about Canada? ocanadablog.com/

Or Russia?: seansrussiablog.org/

Or Brazil? eyesonbrazil.com/

Passionate about Argentine history?

blogs.lanacion.com.ar/historia-argentina/

Interested in climate change or the resource limitations of modern society?

cassandralegacy.blogspot.com

This blog by Tom Murphy uses physics to examine how the world can realistically address the end of fossil fuels: physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math

Interested in global politics and International Relations?

www.whiteoliphaunt.com/duckofminerva/

One of the most popular blogs today is Frank Jacobs’ Strange Maps

bigthink.com/blogs/strange-maps

Rubric:

I also created a rubric for this assignment, which I’ve posted below. I’ve moved away from using numerical scores within my rubrics, to instead basing the grade on categories (mostly excellent, etc.), which makes the rubric easier to use:

INTL 201: Blog Review Rubric

 

 

Student Name: _______________________________________________

 

 

Content

Writing and Organization

Originality and Insight

Excellent

The writer clearly discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the blog. Their arguments are supported with specific detail, and they demonstrate a careful reading of the blog’s material, as well as critical reflection.

Excellent

The essay is well-organized, flows logically, and has an introductory and concluding paragraph. The writing style is clear and a pleasure to read.

Excellent

The essay is highly original and demonstrates insight. There a number of new ideas or arguments. The essay’s creativity leads the reader take a fresh perspective on issues.

Good

The writer discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the blog. Their arguments are generally supported with specific detail, and they demonstrate a reading of the blog’s material, as well as some critical reflection.

Good

The essay is well organized and flows logically, but lacks a clear beginning or conclusion. The writing has some minor style or grammar issues.

Good.

The paper is quite original and shows insight. The paper shows some creativity.

Sufficient

The writer discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the blog, although at times their analysis is shallow. Their arguments sometimes lack supporting detail, or could have more clearly demonstrated a careful reading of the blog’s material. There is some critical reflection.

Sufficient

The essay has some organization, but sometimes jumps from one topic to the next. There is no clear beginning or conclusion. There are problems with the writing, including grammar and spelling errors.

Sufficient

While the paper has some originality and insight, it is not highly creative and has only occasional insights.

Needs Improvement

The essay discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the blog in a superficial manner. Their work often lacks supporting detail, or evidence of critical reflection.

Needs Improvement

The essay sometimes rambles. The transition from one section to the next is not always clear. The essay lacks an introduction or conclusion. There are frequent grammar and spelling problems.

Needs Improvement

The paper has few examples of original arguments or insight.

Weak

The essay fails to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the blog. Their work does not demonstrate a familiarity with the blog’s content. Their argument lacks supporting detail or evidence of critical reflection.

Weak

The essay lacks organization, and jumps from one topic to the next without any coherence. There are multiple and major grammar, spelling and style problems.

Weak

The paper lacks original thought or new ideas. There is little or no evidence of reflection or fresh insight.

 

Grading:A = All excellentA- = Mostly excellentB/B+ = Mostly GoodC+/B- = Good with some sufficientC or below = Mostly Sufficient to Needs ImprovementD or below= Mostly Weak or Needs Improvement

The student grades are now in for this assignment, and most of the class did quite well. Many students said that they enjoyed this project, and plan to follow the blog in the future.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

 

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