Using Mahara: Blogging, Peer Review and Feedback
Management student writing their preparatory essay in the form of a “blog piece” using the Mahara platform. The project also involved them providing feedback on their peers’ piece.
The project team:
Edgar Whitley,Marta Stelmaszak, Athina Chatzigavriil
and Arthur Wadsworth
“The aim of the project is to assess the suitability of the Mahara platform as a means of student assessment, feedback and peer review for courses within the School.
To achieve this aim, the project has a number of objectives: The first is to evaluate the effectiveness of Mahara as a means of operationalising student peer review of assignments.
The second objective is to evaluate the effectiveness of Mahara as a means of providing feedback on assignments from course leaders.
The third objective is to document experiences from the first implementation of Mahara in the School, paying particular attention to questions of scaling the usage to larger student cohorts and more courses.”
Edgar Whitley, Department of Management
Edgar experimented with using alternative writing genres for the course preparatory essay. In consultation with LTI, they decided to use the Mahara platform as this tool integrates closely with Moodle. The blog piece fitted within an overall process of writing and feedback that culminated in the final essay for the course.
As a blogging platform, Mahara has functionality whereby it is possible for anyone to comment on a particular blog. The first part of the feedback process therefore involved students reading at least one blog post by another student and providing feedback (in the form of a comment) to the author. The function was also used for the markers to provide feedback on the blog posts.
Although there were some teething problems with this first attempt to use Mahara, the underlying pedagogical points of a) having students focus on their argument structure separately from their main academic writing; and b) using a blogging platform to provide peer and faculty feedback on the blog piece were clearly appreciated by students who recognised the benefits of this activity.
The innovations were commended by an external examiner and probably contributed to the noticeable improvement in the quality of the resulting essays.