Consider This: Student Engagement through Blogging

As an educator, I am always looking for new ways to engage students in learning. I have to admit that blogging as an assignment isn't a…

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As an educator, I am always looking for new ways to engage students in learning. I have to admit that blogging as an assignment isn't a new concept and that I didn't think of it on my own. In my role as an Educational Developer at the Centre for Teaching and Learning, I consulted on a Blended Learning project with Dr. Matthew Wildcat and he shared a blog his students created for one of his course assignments.

Instantly, I recognized that using the blog as a medium helps students to share their perspectives about a topic and react to others whom may respond to their ideas using contemporary social media methods.This allows for the learning to continue outside of class time and outside of the course all together. Last year, I taught EDU 211: Aboriginal Education and Contexts for Professional and Personal Engagement in the Faculty of Education. I wanted to create an assignment that would encompass what the students have learned about Aboriginal Education; Racism; White Privilege; Critical Race Theory; Colonization; Decolonization; and Indigenous Worldviews. These are not easy topics to engage with and in this course we need to unpack the truth and relearn history. My questions were: How can I authentically assess the students knowledge gained in the course? How will I know that they will be able to bring these learnings into their practice as teachers? How will they showcase their knowledge to future employers? And how will this content change beliefs and practices?

I wanted to be able to authentically assess students' practical application of the knowledge and skills they were learning in the course (Darling-Hammond & Snyder, 2000). Essentially, the blog assignment showed me what the students had learned about their topic; if they were using critical thinking skills; how they would use their knowledge in their practice; and how they used blogging techniques to structure their argument.

I have learned through trial and error, that there will always be challenges when venturing into something new. I am totally honest with students about this so they know we are traversing this new landscape together. Both setting up the blog site and student email accounts was arduous and I had to ask my colleague and tech guru, Graeme Pate, to help me with the set-up and functionality of the blog site.

Moreover I wasn't sure if this assignment was going to be successful or not, but I knew from the beginning that I wanted to engage the students in learning the course content in a meaningful way which would positively influence their practice as teachers. According to Levy et al., "[w]hile these tools could enhance student engagement in content area learning, they also have the potential to support engagement in issues beyond the classroom" (2015). When students learn the real history of Indigenous-Settler relations it can be jarring for them and many of them want to act upon their learning in meaningful ways.

So…what did the students think? Some feedback I received was:

  • It was a lot of work, but no more than an end of term paper
  • The blog helped them to really engage with the chosen topic
  • One group that interviewed teachers about weaving Indigenous perspectives into the curriculum loved being in schools and seeing first hand how Indigenous world views are a part of the student experience in schools
  • On my USRI, a student shared that they had mixed feelings about the assignment, but at the end of the course they loved the assignment because it helped them to build something for their portfolio

My goal as an educator is that students will be able to use what they learn in class and use those learnings in their practice. Together, the students co-constructed meaning from their research and reading of course materials to create some really amazing blogs. This assignment was so successful that two cohorts completed this assignment: Winter 2018 and Spring 2018. It was a wonderful adventure because I learned a lot from the students too.


Brayboy, B. (2005). Toward a Tribal Critical Race Theory in Education. The Urban Review, 37(5), 425-446. doi: 10.1007/s11256-005-0018-y

Darling-Hammond, L., & Snyder, J. (2000). Authentic assessment of teaching in context. Teaching And Teacher Education, 16(5-6), 523-545. doi: 10.1016/s0742-051x(00)00015-9

Laughter, J. (2011). Rethinking assumptions of demographic privilege: Diversity among White preservice teachers. Teaching And Teacher Education, 27(1), 43-50. doi: 10.1016/j.tate.2010.07.001

Levy, B., Journell, W., He, Y., & Towns, B. (2015). Students blogging about politics: A study of students' political engagement and a teacher's pedagogy during a semester-long political blog assignment. Computers & Education, 88, 64-71. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2015.04.010

Jennifer Ward - Educational Developer, Centre for Teaching & Learning; Sessional Instructor, Faculty of Education

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Jennifer Ward (MA, Athabasca University) is of Umpqua and Algonquin decent. She has ten years experience as an English Instructor at NAIT, as well as two years experience as a Consultant in the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Education unit with Edmonton Public Schools (EPSB). The use of Indigenous epistemologies and pedagogies in education and training staff are the foundational principles of her master's thesis and the work she did with EPSB and the Government of Alberta. She has designed both face-to-face and on-line courses. She was short-listed for a student nominated Instructional Excellence Award in 2014.

In addition, Jennifer is a sessional instructor for the Faculty of Education's EDU211: Aboriginal Education and the Context for Professional Engagement. Working with Elders, students and community are some of her most cherished experiences. Jennifer welcomes the opportunity to help educators bring Indigenous worldviews into their practice and their classrooms. Hiy Hiy.