There’s a thread kicking around out there about the hows and whys of publishing student work to the Internet, and I’ve been thinking quite a bit about it since Greg’s posts (here and here) last week. I’ve always been the type to act first and think later when it comes to trying new things…it seems like now is the time to do some of that thinking, however.

Greg says:

Frankly, as a former writing instructor, I was mortified to see the student’s peer reviews publicly available. First, from a writing pedagogy perspective, I think you risk significantly increasing the pressure on the students, many of whom are already intimidated by sharing their work with a small group. Second, I would be concerned that it is treading dangerously close to a FERPA violation, since this is making a students work and, more importantly, the teacher’s evaluation of their work publicly availably. Thin ice!

I’ve been teaching writing for 20 years, and I’ve always struggled with being able to provide and audience for student work that was meaningful and not just manufactured in the classroom, especially with my journalists. To some extent, I think raising the bar is a good thing and that pressure is not necessarily a bad thing. Additionally, even with a wider more public audience, part of my job is to create a nurturing environment for publication in my class. I try to be sensitive to the needs and fears of my kids. Thus far, I haven’t had many if any that I have perceived to be intimidated to the point of paralysis (not that Greg is suggesting that.) I can see his point, however, that insecure writers may be more sensitive to feedback whether it is construed as constructive or otherwise. But again, in a journalism context, publishing is a necessary and integral part of the process…and the feedback they get is not the typical “the reporter got it wrong” letter to the editor type stuff. It’s coaching.

(Just as an aside, as to the FERPA issues, my reading is that it deals more with records in the “grade” sense rather than student work.)

I’m wondering how Anne and Joe and Pat and others weigh in on this issue as it certainly is a chapter in the Web logs for Educators book. How is publishing to an Internet audience different from small group or classroom publishing? Should there be a way to make some posts more private and others public? What should “policy” be in terms of getting permissions for doing this? Ethically, what are the issues involved with open publication of student work?