Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fostering critical thinking in discussions

Recently I discovered some back issues of Online Classroom and stumbled on some fresh perspectives on fostering critical thinking in discussions. The article by William Pelz in the August 2003 issue focuses on student-led discussions but the ideas transfer well to the general format. If you have been a bit frustrated by the level of engagement of discussion posts, here are some points to consider. His suggestions for a meaningful discussion question include:

  • Be open-ended
  • Relate to key issues or ideas in the course material
  • Require that the student relate the ideas to other concepts in the course, or to his or her own experience. Examples, or comparison/contrast are two common critical thinking strategies. It helps, too, I think, to provide an example of the kind of response you are looking for.

What about the rubric? How do you evaluate those subjective responses? Pelz suggests that you look at issues such as:

  • relevance and focus on the course material
  • ability to provoke thought in other students
  • originality
  • timeliness (if you expect responses from other students, do those students have time to do so?)

I am pretty sure that these are not new issues, just framed here in a somewhat organized manner. Let us hear your own insights on the best ways to engage students in these interactions.

Pelz, William. "Student-centered Pedagogy: Student-led Discussion enhances Critical Thinking." Online Classroom. Aug 2003: 4,6. Print.

No comments: