MERLOT Conference 2009 – San Jose

Conference Presentation Preview: From Chit Chat to Discourse

Posted in Session by Dorothy Fuller on June 16, 2009

I teach graduate courses in education. Many of the issues we study come in the form of ill-defined problems, and discussion is one tool to clarify issues, work toward common understanding, and use the combined knowledge, experience and energy of a like-minded community to address possible solutions. In the online environment where my classes take place, this kind of communication happens in an asynchronous threaded discussion. The ongoing written conversation can result in a dynamic presentation of clear thinking written in well constructed sentences of well chosen words, but it usually doesn’t. Many participants are uncertain of the quality of their offerings, both in terms of the strengths and the weaknesses of those postings. Even with rubrics and exemplars, they seem to struggle with finding the magic balance of examining a topic, supporting the community and maintaining economy of effort.

As I searched for ways of providing more and better feedback and encouragement to students, I found that the participant rating tools now found in many learning management systems provide another way of addressing the value of every posting in its ability to support understanding and learning for all those engaged in the discussion. 

  • Students reach agreement on specific characteristics of discussion postings that both help and hinder their learning.
  •  Students then use the rating system to identify postings that were helpful to their learning and those that were not by awarding stars as they read each one.
  • Writers are then asked to review and rate their own work and to compare their ratings with those received by the class as a whole.
  • Students are also asked to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of both the top star winners and their own writings, to compare the results, and to set goals for increasing their own ratings throughout the course.

In “From Chit Chat to Discourse: Improving Online Discussion” I will share how students in two different classes used this system, what they liked and did not like about it, and how they used it to increase the quality of their own discussion participation. I will also ask others to share their innovative and effective strategies for increasing discussion quality.

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3 Responses

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  1. Cathy Swift said, on June 18, 2009 at 2:51 am

    I’d like to know when this presentation is scheduled.

  2. Jane Moore said, on June 18, 2009 at 2:53 am

    I have learned so much about online discourse from Dorothy! This session will be one you want to attend!
    Jane

  3. Dorothy Fuller said, on June 18, 2009 at 4:24 am

    This session is scheduled for Sunday, August 16, from 10:00 – 10:30 a.m.


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