There is a great deal of talk in higher education about the importance of having students demonstrate critical thinking. These are suggestions for using an online discussion forum, like the one available in Blackboard, to facilitate critical thinking skills.
Make grading criteria obvious to students. By neglecting to provide students with the criteria you’ll be grading on you aren’t fully preparing them to complete the task, regardless of what that task is. The Rubric tool, built in to Blackboard, is an easy way to facilitate dispersing the assessment criteria to students and it makes grading easier for the instructor.
Require students to prove they have the necessary background knowledge to answer the prompt with an open ended question that requires them to pull information out of the reading and elaborate on it or analyze it in their discussion post. Open ended questions are great for discussion forums because they rarely have right/wrong answers and allow for deeper analysis of the material and can encourage students to pull in their personal experiences with the subject matter.
Discussion forums require students to back up their assertions with facts and allow a safe place for students who aren’t comfortable speaking up in class to have their voices heard. A necessary part of what keeps a successful discussion forum going is having the instructor participate. Guide the students back from the weeds when they get off topic, draw out additional information when it seems they’re stopping short, and monitor for inappropriate online behavior.
With a bit of extra attention to detail at the start an online discussion forum can be the ideal place to encourage your students to hone their critical thinking skills.
What does quality look like in online or blended learning courses? What resources are available to assist administrators in ensuring a quality educational experience? How have other higher education institutions addressed quality and assessment concerns?
Dr. Kaye Shelton will share her insights in a Campus Conversation webinar and a workshop on Thursday, March 12, 2015, in the Umoho Room in the Milo Bail Student Center.
Shelton currently serves as the Associate Professor of Educational Leadership in the Center for Doctoral Studies in the College of Education at Lamar University. Previously, as Dean of Online Education for Dallas Baptist University, she led the development / operations of more than 55 fully online majors. Continue reading
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is commonplace among students. Students are using mobile devices and so are faculty. Grading papers on an iPad on a front porch via the Internet is now not only doable, it’s practical, and for some, just more fun!
More apps are being created daily. It can become difficult to find apps that would be helpful as a faculty member. Check the article 50 Resources for Teaching with iPads to see if one is your favorite or may become your new favorite.
Peer Instruction (PI) is a teaching methodology that leverages student interaction to improve learning. Developed by Eric Mazur (ca. 1990), PI can be used in classes of any size and is implemented using a standard model:
- Students are assigned outside readings which are completed before class.
- In class, instructor gives brief presentation incorporating concepts from readings.
- Instructor poses conceptual questions, or ‘Concept Tests’ based on presentation and student feedback on readings.
- Students are given time to consider the questions posed.
- Then students commit to an individual answer to the original question, often, but not always, using a class response system or web polling.
- Instructor reviews student responses and has students discuss their thinking and answers with peers.
- Students then commit (respond) again to a Concept Test with an individual answer.
- Instructor reviews responses and decides if more clarification or explanation is needed before moving on to other concepts.
Many will recognize PI as a ‘Flipped’ classroom learning approach, but the difference here is that much of the learning takes place in the interaction between the students rather than the discussion lead by the professor.
As Eric Mazur explains:
“a fellow student is more likely to reach them than Professor Mazur—this is the crux of the (PI) method. You’re a student and you’ve only recently learned this (concept), so you still know where you got hung up, because it’s not that long ago that you were hung up on that very same thing. Whereas Professor Mazur got hung up on this point when he was 17, and he no longer remembers how difficult it was back then. He has lost the ability to understand what a beginning learner faces.”
Listen, Watch: Excerpt of PI Discovery by Eric Mazur
Rubrics can be useful in helping students analyze their processes for completing tasks. A rubric is a scoring tool outlining the criteria used to measure the level of performance or quality expected from the student’s work. Traditionally, there are two types of rubrics: holistic and analytic. A holistic rubric provides scoring on overall quality, proficiency or understanding, with criteria for assessing specific elements of the work combined into levels of quality. An analytic rubric, on the other hand, provides for scoring on individual elements, with criteria for assessing those elements clearly Continue reading