10 September 2013 – 11 September 2013
Senate House, Malet Street, London , WC1E 7HU
Critical reading and academic writing require one thing above all else—practice. Yet, fears that students are becoming over-assessed, and that lecturers are drowning in marking, have led to a progressive reduction of written assessment in most UK history departments. Some have attempted to redress this problem through the use of informal draft exercises, seminar logs and other un-assessed writing; however, the increasing sophistication of strategic learning, by which students expertly calculate the most profitable use of what they perceive to be their extremely limited time, usually leads to infrequent submission if not a wholesale boycott of the process.
Over the past several years, I have attempted to redefine the value of this un-assessed work, rebalancing the crucial cost-benefit analysis undertaken by my students. After several years’ refinements, I have instituted a form of historiographical blogging that, although completely un-assessed, maintained at 75-80% completion rate. Moreover, it was suggested during a recent staff-student committee, by student representatives, that the blogging exercise be expanded to other modules.
This paper will provide an outline of the historiographical blogging project, and its predecessors, and explore the ways in which un-assessed reading and writing can be profitably reintegrated into standard history modules. It will demonstrate its effectiveness in preparing students for more scholarly essay writing—and therefore more straightforward marking—less-stressful exam revision and an overall more productive seminar experience. It will also highlight the limitations of the project, technical, temporal and social, and the extent to which these can be rectified.