The value of discussions and other interactive strategies in online instruction is to get the student active in exploration, discovery, and deep learning which leads to critical thinking. Learning that enables critical thinking is a collaborative process in which content is generally constructed or discovered rather than transmitted.
Where discussions fall flat are when the topic is not interesting, engaging, or relevant to the student. Sometimes the problem lies when the group of students is too small, or divergent opinions or personalities can cause the discussion to falter. When planning the discussion, one needs to consider what is the learning objective for this learning activity?
- Convergent thinking? (Asking why, how or in what ways?)
- Divergent thinking? (Asking usually begins with imagine; suppose; predict; if…, then…; how might…; can you create; what are some possibleconsequences?)
- Evaluative thinking? (Defend, judge, justify, what do you think about…, what is your opinion about…?)
Here are some prompt questions:
- What do you mean by…?
- Let me see if I understand you: do you mean ____or ____?
- Could you give me an example?
- What are you assuming?
- How can we find out?
- Can we break this question down at all?
- Does this question lead to other questions or issues?
- Could you explain your reasons to us?
- Do you have any evidence for this?
- What effect would that have?
- How would other groups or peoples respond? Why?
- Can anyone see this another way?
Using open-ended questions leads to higher-order thinking; students are encouraged to interact with multiple perspectives which energizes the search for deeper understanding.
Your open-ended prompt questions set the direction for the interactive inquiry for deeper learning. Your continued questioning will keep the process going, focused, and purposeful for achieving the stated learning outcomes.
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