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I am a course TA and I instruct a class of about 20 undergrads. I'm planning to make a public pedagogy blog. I think there could be some potential problems with this. For example, if the students in my class find it, and read "a student is struggling with Y topic", or "I think this student is having problems".

Potentially risky content:

  • Class plans and preparation
  • Reflections on each class, including comments on the students
  • Discussions of course content, and suggested improvements to prescribed classwork

Are there any potential problems I would encounter, given the material I am blogging about?

Possible solutions:

  • Anonymising my own name
  • Anonymising all the students' names
  • Restricting access to course staff (lecturer, TAs)

Do I require any of these solutions?

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    You may want to check with the legal office at your university if there are privacy regulations preventing you to use real student names (spoiler: they will answer yes anyway, just to be on the safe side). – Federico Poloni Feb 28 '15 at 9:56
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    Anonymising all the students' names – IMO, this is not a "possible" solution, it is a mandatory solution. If not by law, by ethics. As a student, I would not want my TA writing about me on a public blog without asking permission first. – Moriarty Feb 28 '15 at 13:46
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    Yes, it'd be a violation of FERPA in the USA to use real names. Even if it was anonymized, if unmasking through deductive disclosure is possible, then it still might be a FERPA violation. I would embargo the blog postings for a semester or two and release them asynchronously with the class. – RoboKaren Feb 28 '15 at 15:11
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First, you need to decide the purpose of your blog / your targeted audience.

If you are writing something so your class can be more interactive, you would clearly write it one way (being very careful not to embarrass anyone) - simply removing names might not actually hide identities in a class of 20 students. In this scenario, I don't see a reason to hide your own identity.

If you are writing something for other teachers, to discuss pedagogical issues, then you would write in a very different way. In this case, anonymizing your student names is very important (for different reasons) and you might want to hide your own identity as a way to stop your students or anyone else connecting your writings to a particular group of students.

  • That makes sense. What problems are caused if my writings are connected to a particular group of students? – icedtrees Feb 28 '15 at 12:29
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    When Francois McGillocard is applying for a job and someone digs through his transcripts they might see that he took Psych 101 in the Fall of 2014 at XYZ University. If you blog that you taught Psych 101 in the Fall of 2014 at XYZ University, the person now knows Francois was in your group (assuming there was only one class). If you included "This is the dumbest group I've ever taught. Not one even understands the difference between perception and personality." Now, that potential employer knows something about Francois that they did not know before, which could impact his job offer. – earthling Feb 28 '15 at 12:46

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