The Pioneer Post

The Pioneer Post is a resource for online students that provides tips and information about distance education.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

By Charles Christison

Discussion assignments, whether whole class or group focused, are meant to be an interaction between all participants. The learning that takes place in a in a discussion forum is different than other types of learning. In a discussion, each student is exposed to the viewpoints of others and should be willing to share their viewpoint on the topic. In this light, discussions are interactive and support learning by participation.

Students should begin a discussion assignment after they have completed assigned readings and individual assignments. Without this preparation they enter the discussion without context. This leads to a poor learning experience.

One technique is to position students as teachers by evaluating the impact of how they have contributed to the learning of their classmates. A successful discussion does not mean that everyone agrees with everyone else, but that multiple viewpoints have been presented and discussed. Active discussions should lead to more critical thinking as reflected in questions and issues raised.

Discussions can be evaluated in terms of improved questions and the amount of engagement presented. Better responses will reflect Boom's higher level cognitive skills, such as analysis and synthesis. Poorest responses would be simple agreement or repeating of what others have stated.

Any behavior in a discussion that limits the amount of engagement, students dominating the discussion and otherwise restricting the flow of ideas should be corrected as soon as possible.

The bottom line is that discussions are meant to be an interaction between all participants to the benefit of all. Exposure to multiple viewpoints with active discussions should lead to a higher level of critical thinking.



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