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Writing in Public: The Benefits of Blogging for Assessment in Diplomatic Studies

Foreign Policy
International Relations
UN
Steven Curtis
London Metropolitan University
Steven Curtis
London Metropolitan University
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Abstract

This paper explores how publicly accessible blogs can be employed to enable and encourage peer, tutor and practitioner feedback on students’ work in progress in the study of contemporary diplomacy, a purpose for which there are reasons for thinking blogs very well tailored. In particular, the paper demonstrates how, building on the more structured use of blogs in earlier years of study, students on a final-year module in Public Diplomacy and Global Communication are given great latitude to define and research their own understandings of the module, thereby enhancing their learning through online publication of their research and the feedback they receive, some of it from serving and former diplomats and other international actors. The paper also reflects on the benefits imparted by the public dimension of this activity through an analysis of the results of a comparative study of students writing on publicly accessible blogs and those writing in the more enclosed space of the BlackBoard virtual learning environment. While the ‘safe space’ of the VLE seems to be highly valued by a very small number of students who prefer to develop their ideas in a more enclosed space, most find writing for a global audience exhilarating, and it encourages them to take more care with their academic writing and spurs them to reflect and write more frequently. Finally, the paper considers some of the potential risks associated with students writing in public and ways that have been devised to effectively mitigate them.