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Using Blogs as a Tool to Develop Students' Writing and Critical Thinking Skills

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Slides from UCL Arena Exchange Seminar, 14 Jan 2015

Critical thinking and being able to express this in written form is a crucial skill for students in evaluating ideas, applying concepts to real-life situations and solving problems. As a deep approach to learning it is inherently difficult to teach.
This seminar will present an approach that enables students to develop their writing and critical thinking skills using blogs as a tool. This is based on experiences from the module ‘Buildings Organisations Networks’(BON) in the MSc Spatial Design: Architecture and Cities at the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment at UCL, where blogs formed an integral part of the teaching and learning experience as well as the assessment.
The seminar will give a brief overview of the approach and then focus on a round table discussion to share questions, views, perspectives and ideas to apply this approach to different teaching practices and settings.

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Using Blogs as a Tool to Develop Students' Writing and Critical Thinking Skills

  1. 1. Using Blogs as a Teaching Tool Dr Kerstin Sailer, January 2015 USING BLOGS AS A TOOL TO DEVELOP STUDENTS’ WRITING AND CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS Dr Kerstin Sailer Space Syntax Laboratory, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL UCL ARENA Exchange Seminar | 14 January 2015
  2. 2. Using Blogs as a Teaching Tool Dr Kerstin Sailer, January 2015 The Problem Writing and critical reflection as core skills of many programmes • Evaluating ideas • Applying concepts to real-life situations • Solving Problems → Inherently difficult to teach DEEP LEARNING SURFACE LEARNING
  3. 3. Using Blogs as a Teaching Tool Dr Kerstin Sailer, January 2015 Background MSc Spatial Design: Architecture and Cities (SD:AC) at Bartlett School of Architecture Leading 15 credit module ‘Buildings Organisations Networks’ (BON): covers relationship between building layout, organisational cultures, and social dynamics of space usage
  4. 4. Using Blogs as a Teaching Tool Dr Kerstin Sailer, January 2015 Buildings Organisations Networks – Module Structure 10 week programme 1 Weekly Lecture Introduce theories and case studies, discuss existing research Experience a relevant building, get information from users, see phenomena first hand, observe → ‘Thinking Aloud Discussion’ 2 Building Visit 3 Blog Post Students choose one aspect or theme and write a blog post (500 words max); anonymous vote of best contribution of the week
  5. 5. Using Blogs as a Teaching Tool Dr Kerstin Sailer, January 2015 Buildings Organisations Networks – Feedback System
  6. 6. Using Blogs as a Teaching Tool Dr Kerstin Sailer, January 2015 Student Views How useful did you find the following teaching methods in enabling you to learn new content and develop your thinking?
  7. 7. Using Blogs as a Teaching Tool Dr Kerstin Sailer, January 2015 Student Views “I am really impressed with your extensive and well prepared response. I did not expect so much dedication, for which I am very grateful.” “Thank you very much for the mark and the feedback. I believe this could give me the spirit to be better next time.” “The weekly blogging exercise forces you to quickly assimilate the knowledge and apply it.” “I just want to say thank you a lot for your suggestion. You help me not only for your course but for other courses as well. You gave me many ideas and how to compose them properly. I haven't finished my work yet (…), but now, at least, I see a way.”
  8. 8. Using Blogs as a Teaching Tool Dr Kerstin Sailer, January 2015 My own reflections • Tangible progress in writing and critical thinking skills in most students • Multiple opportunities for students to ‘get it’ • Turning students into content producers in an increasingly social media driven society → tech savvy • Transferable skills for students; invite to turn blog into online portfolio What works well What doesn’t work so well • Initial barrier of getting students to blog • Students sometimes associate a blog with subjective commentary • Heavy student workload, especially if students interpret task as something ‘big’ • Heavy teacher workload, possibly over-assessing • Peer feedback could be stronger
  9. 9. Using Blogs as a Teaching Tool Dr Kerstin Sailer, January 2015 More thoughts and future plans Privacy issues Diversifying platforms: twitter, pinterest, wordpress blogs, etc. More collaborative set up How to grow student numbers What do you want to discuss?
  10. 10. Using Blogs as a Teaching Tool Dr Kerstin Sailer, January 2015 Thank you! k.sailer@ucl.ac.uk @kerstinsailer Dr Kerstin Sailer Lecturer in Complex Buildings Space Syntax Laboratory Bartlett School of Architecture University College London 140 Hampstead Road London NW1 2BX United Kingdom

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