"The accident of where one is born is just that, an accident; any human being might have been born in any nation"
Martha Nussbaum, 'Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism' in For Love of Country (Beacon Press, 2002)

Monday, 23 March 2009

Research Diaries

As part of the assessment for the political philosophy course that I will be teaching in the Autumn, we will be asking the students to complete a research project instead of an exam. This project will be based around a case study relevant to a particular problem or issue covered during the course. Because this will be a new form of assessment for many of the students, and also because we want them to actively reflect on their learning methods, we are going to ask them to keep research diaries during the module, and then to submit a sample or summary of the diary to be marked along with the project.
We will most likely be using the Blackboard system for our online content, and within this there is the capability to set up a diary for each student. These can be completely private, be only viewable by the student and us as course lecturers, or visible to all members of the module. There are of course advantages and disadvantages to each of these options - privacy encourages honesty, and some students will be less productive on a public forum than they will be when they are not worrying about other people's views. On the other hand, the module is trying to encourage collaborative learning, and allowing students to read and comment on each other's diaries would be one route toward this. I am however sceptical whether many level three students would take the time to do this productively.
In order to puzzle some of these issues out I've set up an online research diary for myself as a trial. I'm using Blogger at first because it is so simple to use and I already have an account. I'm going to keep it private to begin with, but I might change this later on depending on how it goes. I do already keep a research diary of sorts, in that I write dated notes to myself when I'm reading or working, and also through my record of supervision meetings. But this will be a way to keep all of these things in one place, that is accessible from both home and University (and on the move via my mobile). Hopefully it will therefore not only help with some of the teaching issues that I'm looking into but benefit my research as well!
If anyone has any thoughts about the usefullness of research diaries and the best format or location for them I'd be interested to hear them.

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