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Getting undergraduates involved in research blogs – a Law case study Neil Cobb School of Law.

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Presentation on theme: "Getting undergraduates involved in research blogs – a Law case study Neil Cobb School of Law."— Presentation transcript:

1 Getting undergraduates involved in research blogs – a Law case study Neil Cobb School of Law

2 The course unit: Law, Gender & Sexuality Optional 2/3 Law course unit, with current intake of 36 students Typically attracts students with prior, often passionate, interest in feminist and/or LGBT politics and law reform Range of alternative Law pedagogies – poster presentations; field trips; student- devised essay titles

3 The research blog: ‘Inherently Human’ Created in 2009 Edited by academics at Manchester, Durham and Newcastle universities Academic and activist contributors from UK and beyond Teaching resource for LGS; core reading for the course now drawn from it

4 LGS student participation in the blog: ‘Inherently Brief’ Fortnightly ‘news update’ service Posts produced by Manchester, Newcastle and Durham students on LGS courses Voluntary and extra- curricular activity – not integrated into course structure and not part of final assessment Approx. 1/3 of cohort participate each year

5 What works? Pedagogical benefits in using blogs: – Encourages students to develop expertise in their subject matter; – Stimulates student interest and ownership of the topic; – Creates a community of learners and practice; and – Exposes students to diverse perspectives. Ferdig & Trammell (2004)

6 But also... Developing students’ writing skills Students get started on writing in the field earlier and more regularly, and benefit from close editorial support Improving student employability Students can include stable URLs to posts in CVs as examples of written work and extracurricular activity Advancing the core aims of the research blog Inherently Brief makes a genuinely positive contribution to the blog itself

7 What doesn’t work so well? Significant staff resource implications Fortnightly editorial meetings; editing drafts; chasing students for drafts; all without formal credit allocation Doesn’t develop specifically ‘academic’ writing skills More ‘journalistic’ than ‘academic’ writing / students use mostly web-based rather than scholarly source material Not all students benefit Currently dependent on volunteer contributors, so not all students benefit from the process Difficulties in maintaining student engagement Blog contributions are the first thing to go under if students are under competing pressures (e.g. essay submission)

8 Reflections Could contributing to the blog be integrated more formally into LGS course structure? Could students be encouraged to submit more ‘academic’-style posts to Inherently Human? Could similar blog-based activities be extended to other course units?

9 Questions? Ferdig, R.E. & Trammell, K.D. (2004). Content delivery in the blogosphere. T.H.E. Journal, 31(7),


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