05 October 2013

Best Practice for Designing and Assessing Online Discussion Questions - McCourt, Yarbrough, and Tanner

What would happen if you went into a classroom and you were asked to "Describe an interesting educational opportunity"? This could create a monologue, rather than a discussion. Rather, what if you had to describe "the last time a student said 'this lesson changed my life'"?

So what are some specific steps that will stir communication in the classroom?

  1. Ask Good Questions - The better the question, the better the interaction. Students should know immediately what the instructor wants them to do. (not necessarily what the answer is). Consider open ended questions.  Provide opportunity for students to incorporate personal experience. Also, create relevance through questions. Need to allow students to learn from one another AND problem solve. MUST be tied to course topics and course outcomes. No tangents!! Use Bloom's Taxonomy to consider levels of learning and how to elicit specific thinking from students on your target levels. 
  2. Foster Meaningful Discussion - Require participation and provide some guidelines of what that should look like, e.g. 3 different posts on 3 different days of the week. What does a substantive post look like? Not everything needs to be "research-based." Feel free to have students share, rather than regurgitate. Students need an instructor to model good, substantive responses. Some faculty have issues with "having to" do something. Requiring that they have XX number of discussion board or you are not allowed to have XX number of discussion boards. 
  3. Consider the type of communication you want to happen and design the questions accordingly:
  • Student to Student
  • Student to Professor
  • Professor to Student
  1. Provide clear guidelines for length, word count, number of posts, etc. Use a rubric!!

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