Saturday, May 28, 2011

Promoting Active Student Learning Through Discussion Boards

Do you often rely on “pop quizzes” to ensure students are reading course texts or materials? In a culture bombarded my multi-media traditional reading requires thoughtful strategies to reduce the trend toward “aliteracy”. While micro-blogging or social media within the classroom seems to be an extreme response, the use of discussion boards can promote reading of course material by requiring thoughtful, critical, written responses to questions related to controversial or relevant issues based on the topical reading material. The tracking, monitoring, and grading features incorporated into the technology can allow the instructor to work smarter rather than harder to promote student success and active engagement.
Discussion Boards can promotes higher order thinking skills (HOTS) by requiring effective discussion through writing. Instructors setting up effective topics can empower students to take ownership of learning. Obviously it is important to establish high expectations to avoid “textese”:

Require word processing before copying, pasting, and posting.
Encourage students to include a related question for a peer or the instructor to subsequently discuss thereby building the thread.

Clear discussion board policies established between student and faculty expectations are essential for success. The following models can provide helpful starting points:

Discussion Questions should be topical and promote analysis of the reading and synthesis of thought in order to respond. A convergent question may draw the student in but a divergent question promotes HOTS and more discussion/debate.
Model 1:Students must post their initial response to the initial classroom discussion question by Day X, and the 2nd classroom discussion question by Day Y of each week.
Model 2: Students must post their initial response to the classroom discussion question by Day X of each week. Responses to at least two classmates’ initial response must be done by Day Y of each week.
Participation: Participating in classroom discussion is essential to the learning experience. By participating in the weekly discussions students and instructors share experiences, investigate complicated subject matter, share expertise, and examine the content from new perspectives. An instructor should credit participation based on the following:

  • Initial posts should be 75-100 words, using APA format, and be word processed before posting. The initial post should integrate course theories with a practical application of the subject. For example, the student should offer a personal observation or experience, or reference real-world examples, current events, or present further research he or she conducted on the topic (cite as needed).

Follow-up responses to classmates’ initial posts should be 40-60 words and:

  • Promote interaction in classroom discussion by demonstrating deeper or broader thoughts about the topic, rather than just rephrasing what the textbook or another student already stated.

  • Encourage further discussion and ongoing dialogue with other students in the class.

  • Present communications that are professional and supportive, using a respectful tone.

  • Exhibit proofreading and contain minimal errors in writing mechanics.

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