A claims analysis blog to facilitate teamwork, critical thinking

By Andy Smith and Linda Kenney – Originally presented at SUNY Conference on Instruction and Technology – May 24 – 27, 2011

Downloadable detailed instructions: [Download not found]

Team work is often problematic, both in face-to-face and online classes. First, students often do not understand how to work in teams; second, grading everyone fairly is often an issue. Over the past year an instructional designer and a faculty member devised a solution using a blog. Details of this assignment and its successes and failures will be presented.

This Claims Analysis Blog assignment was developed by Andy Smith, an online science instructor at Granite State College(GSC), and Linda Kenney, an instructional designer at GSC. Andy uses this assignment  in an online Physical Geography class, which he teaches in the summer term. Linda teaches face-to-face courses at the University of New Hampshire-Manchester and has used this team blog assignment for two semesters.  Andy and Linda have tweaked this assignment every term.

Blackboard is the Learning Management System that was used for these courses.  All blog examples will be shown in Blackboard.  Other blogs can certainly be used for this work. In order to protect student privacy, student last names are removed from all examples.

Preliminary Work:

  • Topics Chosen  —  A list of  topics is given to the students in the class. They have a week to submit  their first 2 (or 3) choices.
  • Teams Created  —  Students meet face-to-face (F2F) and decide on the precise claim.
  • Claims Determined  —   In the F2F classes, teams decided on their own claims. In the online 8-week class, the claims were given by the instructor.
  • Blogs Created

Evidence Collected and Posted:

Evidence for this project means facts, quotes, or expert opinions related to the claim. A piece of evidence might support the claim, or might go against the claim.

  • Collect evidence (generally, by searching online) for both sides of the claim. Before you start looking for evidence, it would be smart to check the evidence already collected by your group members, so you don’t duplicate it. You should find “new” evidence, that hasn’t already been collected by your teammates.
  • Create a new blog post for each piece of evidence. If you are posting six pieces of evidence, then you’ll need to create six new blog posts.
  • Start your blog post title with either “PRO: “ (if you are posting a piece of evidence that supports the claim) or “CON: “ (if you are posting a piece of evidence that is against the claim). Then type a few words about what you’ve found.
    • For the sample claim “Garlic Prevents Colds”, here are some sample titles:
    • my blog post “PRO: research on garlic supplements”
    • my blog post “CON: people say garlic not powerful.”
  • Enter the evidence you found (quote from an article, a fact, a table) in the post.
    • How much should you write? Not much. Pretend you are the reader of your blog post. How much information does the reader need to know in order to reasonably use the evidence in an argument about the claim?
  • IMPORTANT: Be sure to say where your evidence came from. Provide a link to an online source. Put the relevant facts directly in the post; do not make the reader click on a link to see the information. (If you did not get the evidence online, say where you found it.)
  • In order to help your teammates work on the next steps of the project, please make sure you add three pieces of evidence in support of the claim and three pieces of evidence against the claim in a timely way. That way, everyone on the team can use the next weeks to work on the rest of the assignment.

Some sample blog posts

Evaluation of Evidence

  • Look again at the evidence your team has collected on your blog.
  • Type your evaluation of the evidence in the comment box. Specifically mention whether you think the evidence is (1) clear, (2) strong, and (3) relevant. And, explain why.
    • OR, you may use the ABC Test for Evaluating Websites, but make sure you still explain why you made your decisions.
  • Write an evaluation for at least 6 pieces of evidence. (Note: the 6 comments should be about evidence collected by your teammates, not your own evidence.) This is just a minimum. Feel free to add your opinion to more than that.

For any web-based resource that you use, you can use an ABC rating on a scale of 0-3, with 3 being the highest score indicating a more reliable source.

 

A
Authority
  1. Is the author qualified to write on this subject?
  2. Does the author provide contact information?
  3. Is it clearly stated who is sponsoring the site?
  4. Is the person/organization sponsoring the site trustworthy?
  5. What is the domain of the site?
  6. Do citations support information provided on the site?
  7. Is grammar correct? Are there spelling errors?
B
Balanced or Biased
  1. Are goals and/or objectives listed on the website?
  2. Are there advertisements on the website?
  3. Are different perspectives taken into account?
  4. Is the site free of fees and requests for personal information? there any obvious bias on the website?
C
Correct, Complete, Current, and Confirmed Content
  1. Is the website dated?
  2. Is the website updated regularly?
  3. Is the date of the last update clearly posted?
  4. Is an outline of topics covered by the website listed?
  5. Are relevant links to websites with additional information provided?
  6. Are all of the links on the website functional?

Internet World Stats (A=3, B=2, C=3)Here are a few examples of rating a website:

http://www.mit.edu/people/mkgray/net (A=1, B=1, C= 1)

Concluding Blog Posts:

Write an argument in support of the claim.
  • After your team has collected lots of evidence, reread the evidence in support of the claim, and read everyone’s evaluation (opinion) about the clarity, strength, and relevance of the evidence.
  • Pretend you think the claim is totally correct. Pretend you support the claim. From your team’s evidence list, pick and choose the best evidence to write an argument supporting the claim.
  • In a document on your computer, type a short summary of the best evidence in support of the claim. Remember to pretend you think this claim is totally correct. Mention the evidence so it’s clear why you (pretend to) think this claim is correct. (Length: This summary should be somewhere around 200 words.) Be sure to save your work.

Write an argument against the claim.

  • Now it’s time for you to pretend you are entirely opposed to the claim. Reread the evidence that your team collected against the claim.
  • Pretend you think the claim is totally wrong. Pretend you oppose the claim. From your team’s evidence list, pick and choose the best evidence to write an argument against the claim.
  • Under the paragraph you wrote for the support argument  (in the document on your computer), type a short summary of the best evidence against the claim. Remember to pretend you think this claim is totally wrong. Mention the evidence so it’s clear why you (pretend to) think this claim is incorrect. (Length: This summary should be somewhere around 200 words.) Be sure to save your work.

Now be yourself, and conclude the project.

  •  In the two steps above, you pretended to be someone who supports the claim, and then you pretended to be someone opposed to the claim. Now it’s time for you to say which side you really think is the most correct.
  • Under the paragraphs you wrote for the argument against the claim (in the document on your computer), write about which argument you think is the most correct, the most plausible, the most valid. If you have a conversation with a friend about this claim sometime in the future, which argument will you actually use (the “for” or the “against” or a combination)? Justify your answer. Why is your side the best side? (Is it because the evidence is more clear? More factual? Is it more consistent with your value system or your worldview?) (Length: This summary should be somewhere around 100 words.)
  • Create a new blog entry in your team blog, and copy the text of your document into the blog post. (Alternatively, in case there is some issue with the copying, you may instead add your document as an attachment to the blog post.)

Rubric:

Each group member will earn his or her own grade based on the criteria below:

Criteria

Unacceptable 
( 0 points )

Below Average 
( 1 point )

Acceptable 
( 3 points )

Excels 
( 4 points )

Organization and Clarity of Content

Appears hastily done, there is no discernable structure, or the language is very unclear.

Difficult to understand because of unclear language, an unorganized structure, or extreme spelling or grammar errors.

Occasionally uses unclear language, or occasionally employs an unorganized, difficult-to-read structure, or there are many spelling or grammatical errors.

Consistently uses clear language, all the content is organized in a discernable, easy-to-read structure, and there are few spelling or grammatical errors.

Evidence Collection

Contributed no evidence. Contributed one piece of relevant, non-duplicate evidence to each side of the claim within the first week; or contributed more but it was posted after the first week and/or most of it was not compelling and clear.

Contributed two pieces of relevant, non-duplicate evidence to each side of the claim within the first week; or contributed more but some of the evidence was not compelling and clear.

Contributed three pieces of relevant, non-duplicate evidence to each side of the claim within the first week. Most evidence is compelling and clear.

Evidence Evaluation

Very little evaluation of the evidence is performed.

Posted comments on 2 pieces of evidence, evaluating them for clarity, strength, and relevance.

Posted comments on 4 pieces of evidence, evaluating them for clarity, strength, and relevance.

Posted comments on 6 pieces of evidence, evaluating them for clarity, strength, and relevance.

Argument For

The argument is incomplete.

The argument is missing two of: clarity, simplicity, or basis in the evidence.

The argument is missing one of: clarity, simplicity, or basis in the evidence.

The argument is missing none of: clarity, simplicity, or basis in the evidence.

Argument Against

The argument is incomplete.

The argument is missing two of: clarity, simplicity, or basis in the evidence.

The argument is missing one of: clarity, simplicity, or basis in the evidence.

The argument is missing none of: clarity, simplicity, or basis in the evidence.

Conclusion
The conclusion does not indicate whether the “for” or “against” argument is more valid. n/a The conclusion indicates whether the “for” or “against” argument is more valid, and but the reason why is not clear. The conclusion indicates whether the “for” or “against” argument is more valid, and gives clear details indicating why.
from Andy Smith and Linda Kenney
Timeline:
Week Task Due Date
Week 2 Topics available  
Week 3 You may offer additional topics via Messages 2/9
Week 4 Select topic via Messages ; meet with team in class. 2/15 (Tuesday)
Week 5 Claim due 2/23
Week 6 Collect and post evidence to blog (pro and con) 3/2
Week 7 Evaluate the clarity, strength, and relevance of the evidence 3/9
Week 8 Post your document to the blog 3/23
Week 14 Use other teams’ blog information (part of final exam) 5/4

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