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Discussion overview and the question on tool-making

Discussion overview and the question on tool-making

by Branca Mirnic -
Number of replies: 5

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!

Learning Outcomes

 By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate critical thinking in peer discussions
  2. Recognize differences between formal and informal register, style, attitude, and purpose in posts.
  3. Discuss complex essential questions to demonstrate higher level thinking
  4. Use formal vocabulary and complex sentence structure
  5. Paraphrase and summarize sources orally or in writing and use citation
  6. Create a community in an online environment
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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 

You posted your response by the given deadline.

The length of your response is appropriate.

You have used formal, academic language and formatting in your writing.

You have few major grammar/sentence structure errors.

You offer your opinions in an appropriate manner.

You refer to specific ideas in your classmate’s posting and make connections to them with your own ideas.

You use an “agree/disagree” approach and you provided relevant reasons for your opinions

Thanks for reading 
Branca
In reply to Branca Mirnic

Re: Discussion overview and the question on tool-making

by Jonelle Knowles -

I enjoyed the detail in your post. Lots of clear instructions and direct communication here, which I am picking up some pointers from.

I did wonder about the learning outcomes. They seem specific to the task and the online learning method and for a moment I wondered whether the course might be a course related to writing or communication. Have you listed additional learning outcomes students will benefit from and are there learning outcomes that are specific to the Evolutionary Anthropology that students will achieve with this discussion?

It is great to articulate the broad program outcomes (if that is what you have described) that will benefit students as well as the specific content.

In reply to Jonelle Knowles

Re: Discussion overview and the question on tool-making

by Branca Mirnic -

Thank you, Jonelle, for taking the time to read my post. 

I teach English for Academic Purposes at Langara College. It is an intensive program which integrates all the skills. Discussions are just a continuous Interaction 2-3 times a week as I propagate that without Social Presence there won’t be Cognitive Presence. The learning outcomes I underlined are only for the discussion part of course. Depending on the level one topic is one to two weeks. Evolutionary Anthropology is for the highest level and it runs for about 10 days  

What I wanted to achieve with the overview was to clarify the expectations of the discussion boards for the whole session. 

I hope I clarified some of the parts of the long posting  

Thanks agai

Branca


In reply to Branca Mirnic

Re: Discussion overview and the question on tool-making

by Barbara Mauter -

Hi Branca

What level of students is this designed for, all higher level? You have include a very detailed and informative assignment. Plus included a rubric.

Reading this as if I were a student, I might feel a tab bit overwhelmed with the amount of text. Might it be  broken into smaller parts? Some students may feel overloaded and skim quickly or not really answer your questions.

Would it be possible to pull out the discussion expectations and post them separately? 

Just some thoughts.

In reply to Barbara Mauter

Re: Discussion overview and the question on tool-making

by Branca Mirnic -

Thank you, Barbara, for reading and evaluating my post. You are absolutely right: the overview and the actual discussion prompt is a long read  

I teach English for Academic Purposes from intermediate to advance levels. This discussion prompt is for the highest level EAP IV, according to the ESL Articulation Guidelines   

The discussion overview appears at the beginning of the module and it contains most of the requirements and the rationale for 10-15 discussion prompts. Students get it on the first day. I learned earlier that for an online course you have to write all down, even if you are synchronously with your students, the attention span isn’t the same as in the face-face classroom. 

Students do not see all the Discussion prompts for the session.  I just reveal what they need for that week. After the discussion is over I leave it open for the rest of the session. 

So for this particular discussion prompt, being towards the end of the session, i would have “only”

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 eveningand 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

Thanks for the feedback

Branca

In reply to Branca Mirnic

Re: Discussion overview and the question on tool-making

by Barbara Mauter -

Hi Branca

You are most welcome. Thank you for explaining how you set up this Discussion. Yes, much better separated and referring student to the rubric for guidance. It would not appear as overwhelming. Upper level students should be fine with this.

In course I  reviewed, I saw where the instructor had "nested" the course material. I liked this approach. Although, I was not able to make this work in my course.

Hope you have a wonderful semester!