This is what I have written in Brightspace for the students to know at the beginning of the session:
Discussions are woven into the entire course and serve the purpose of improving your language skills, critical thinking and creating online community. The discussion questions are related to your course materials, but they also ask you to have a deeper interaction with the text, your classmates and with yourself.
What you're going to do:
You will post in the Discussion board at the beginning of the unit to activate prior knowledge about a new unit theme. You will often respond in depth to some of your classmates’ postings. At the end of the unit, the Discussion board tasks will provide another opportunity to apply content knowledge, grammar and vocabulary orally or in writing.
Why you're going to use Discussions:
Unlike face-to-face courses, our online course doesn't offer the same opportunities to engage in class discussions. Nevertheless, posting your responses will help you gain understanding of the topics or research, share your point of view, improve language and critical thinking skills. By responding to other classmates, you will get a chance to further develop written and oral skills, work with different media and contribute to an online environment.
How you're going to post and respond:
You are going to compose two basic types of posts: an initial reaction to the assigned questions and responses to classmates’ postings. The structure of both types should be similar in that they should have a brief introduction, development with examples and good grammar. If you respond to another post, you also need to directly connect to the ideas in the classmate’s post.
You are going to post first, then read or watch other's posts and videos. This has a number of advantages:
- You must attempt to write your answer to the questions or create the video on your own without viewing other students' submissions first and copying what others have done.
- You don't know if others have posted, so you won't worry about being the first to post and possibly getting it wrong.
- You are likely to be curious to see what others have done and may post relatively quickly so you can see the discussion.
Your Discussions will be evaluated, so check the rubrics before the response and use them as guidelines. Whether you write or record yourself, effective postings also include a variety of sentence structures and formal language.
How your postings are going to be evaluated:
- Timely posting that shows you are able to manage your time well
- Good answer organization (topic sentence, supporting sentences, if necessary, a conclusion)
- Posting content that addresses the prompt
- Good reflective (thoughtful) content that demonstrates your critical thinking and connections that you make between ideas and real life
- Good grammar and mechanics (punctuation, spelling)
- Adequate length (at least 100 words–see if there is a word requirement and provide the word count)
- AND: if you are responding to a posting thread to which classmates have already contributed, read their postings and be sure to integrate their ideas into your own response!
By the end of this module, you will be able to:
- Demonstrate critical thinking in peer discussions
- Recognize differences between formal and informal register, style, attitude, and purpose in posts.
- Discuss complex essential questions to demonstrate higher level thinking
- Use formal vocabulary and complex sentence structure
- Paraphrase and summarize sources orally or in writing and use citation
- Create a community in an online environment
Topic: " Evolutionary Anthropology"
Read What makes us Human and watch
After answering comprehension questions go to the discussion boards to practice argument and counter-argument
Birds trim materials found in the local environment to build nests; chimpanzees strip leaves from branches to use as probes for insects. Argue for or against the following statement: Tool-making is the ‘secret ingredient’ which makes us unique.
Post your opinions and comments by Thursday evening and respond to at least one of your classmates' posts by creating a counter-argument (or opposition) to one of their arguments before class on Monday Week 4. Continue with the discussion until Monday week 5.
See the rubric for the guideline and the way you will be evaluated
N.B. Students struggle with 'playing the devil's advocate', they might want to agree with their classmates to avoid an unpleasant confrontation (I teach international students who struggle to see the value in opposing somebody's opinion). At higher levels they learn how to write argumentative and counter-argumentative paragraphs, they participate in debates. Overall they struggle because of the language skills, lack of vocabulary, ability to think on the spot, etc., so the more practice they get with it, the better.
I am hoping that the students get more involved in the discussion, that it does not end with the posting and one response only.
The rubric criteria are