Blogging for University Honors Credit. A Success - I think.

I'm currently teaching Introduction to Psychology which has a number of university honors students who are required to do extra work in a certain number of their courses each semester in order to get 'honors credit.' The University leaves it up to me as to what they students should do to get this credit. I decided, along with my students, to let them explore the psychological literature through blogging. Each week they pick a relevant piece of literature (in this case - aggression, attractiveness, and political psychology) and write a short blog post about it.

I've found the blog to be a very wonderful way of getting students to explore the literature. It gets them writing as much as the standard end of the semester term paper as well as allowing a constant communication between me and the blog poster as well as the other honors students. This is great - both peer review and guidance by me. It allows students to both explore the literature broadly (which is perfect for psych 100), it also allows me to offer guidance in both the literature they are looking for as well as their thought processes. There are clearly areas that I would have to work on in the future - perhaps integrating the rest of the class into the commenting or offering credit for posting, even if they aren't honors students. I would also like to have more interaction between the different honors students - maybe even in person. This has most definitely been an experiment that I've given very few guidelines for the students on. In the future I'll create more specific guidelines after I do a complete review of how this semester went.

One guilty pleasure of mine though with this blogging thing is that it is less perceived time spent (both for me and the students) since it is split across many weeks as well as the opportunity to do the blogging anytime and anyplace.

If you are interested in reading some of the posts of my students I would very much encourage you to head on over to and do some reading and even better...commenting!

I would also appreciate any comments you have on the value of this kind of writing vs. straight up term paper writing as well as comments on how to make this better in the future.

Here's some highlights of the student writing:

Within this research they looked to answer the question of whether clothing my effect our views of attraction between humans. In the study they took 95 participants who listened to prerecorded audio tapings that had 30 suggestions relative to marketing a perfume. As these audio tapings were heard a slide of a women (6 models were used - 3 in attractive attire -3 in unattractive attire) were presented in front of the individual, from this image the participant would rate the female on the competence, work comfort, and sociability.

From the data that they collected, they received results which were expected by many of the experimenters. The females that were dressing in more attractive attire were perceived to be more positive compared to women that were dressed in unattractive attire. [link]

This journal entry, by Douglas R. Oxley and colleagues, finds that political views may have a biological basis. This experiment tested 46 adults in Lincoln, Nebraska with strong political views. Participants filled out information about themselves and then were hooked up to machinery that measured their blinks and skin conductance.

Skin conductance "has been closely linked with the psychological concepts of emotion, arousal, and attention." It represents sympathetic activity. Harder blinks indicate a heightened "fear state."

Results showed that "participants whose policy positions suggest more concern for protecting the social unit were distinguished by an increase in skin conductance when threatening stimuli were presented. Those with "measurably lower physical sensitivities to sudden noises and threatening visual images were more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism, and gun control, whereas individuals displaying measurably higher physiological reactions to those same stimuli were more likely to favor defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism, and the Iraq War." [link]

It has come to be an accepted fact in psychology that rejected or "unpopular" individuals often exibit certain anti social tendencies, such as elevated levels of aggression and assertiveness in respect to their peers. The study reffered to in the article "Enmity in males at four developmental levels: cognitive bases for disliking peers" attempts to determine whether or not age is a factor in the reasons males have for disliking other males.
Four groups of males: preschoolers, primary school children, preadolescents and yond adults, were asked questions about two people, their best friend and the person of the same sex that they dislike the most. They were asked aboout both someone they like and someone they dislike so that they would not place undue emphasis of the person they dislike. They were asked why they disliked their nonfriend so much and why they liked their best friend so muc so that there could be a sort of comparison. [link]

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What an excellent idea. The best part of it is that the students are actually writing for more than just the teacher. Most written assigments are completely geared towards what one thinks the teacher wants and appreciates. Naturally, this is also in the back of the head of your students, but just knowing that they not only put it out there for anyone to read - but also for anyone to immediately comment upon will make them think more about what and how to write.

It will be interesting to hear your take on the experiment when it is finished.

I'm a high school English teacher in CA and I'm beginning some similar experiments with using the internet (instead of binder paper) as a platform for student writing. I'm also finding it works well. Good luck!