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Promoting Critical Thinking in Online Discussions

Amy Bergstrom (The College of St. Scholastica, USA)
Brenda Fischer (The College of St. Scholastica, USA)
Additional Authors
Tom Gaetz (The College of St. Scholastica, USA)
Session Information
November 20, 2013 - 12:45pm
Learning Effectiveness
Areas of Special Interest: 
Online Learning andCommunity Colleges
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Extended Information Session
Southern Hemisphere 5
Session Duration: 
80 Minutes
Information Session 2 & 3 (combined)
Virtual Session

This presentation identifies, analyzes and evaluates several strategies for enhancing and assessing students' critical thinking in asynchronous discussion groups.

Extended Abstract

This session will describe strategies used in a graduate online course, for promoting and assessing critical thinking in discussion groups. Students taking a graduate online assessment course participated in the investigation. will share how specific strategies were developed, how they were integrated into the course and how effective they were for engaging online learners in deeper level discussions. Participants will analyze selected strategies and will be able to evaluate specific student discussion responses. The presentation will build upon research based strategies for developing academic and critical think skills in the online environment.

Participants will be able to:

  • identify different types of communication important for building and sustaining e-learning communities.
  • identify specific strategies for promoting and assessing critical thinking in discussion groups.
  • compare different approaches and strategies for promoting critical thinking in discussion groups.
  • analyze and evaluate specific student responses that illustrate critical and higher level thinking.

The focus of this presentation will be on how to enhance students' critical thinking skills in asynchronous discussion groups in a graduate education online course. The research examined two specific areas; the use of core questions, statements and specific examples in promoting critical thinking in asynchronous discussions and the development of a coding system based on Bloom, for assessing those discussions. Students taking a graduate online assessment course participated in the investigation. A requirement of the course was to engage in asynchronous discussions that centered around selected readings on the topic of classroom assessment. Students were provided information on the use of core questions and core statements. The directions for the discussions emphasized the importance of critical thinking and used Bloom's Taxonomy as a model. Students were provided with specific examples of critical thinking and discussions were evaluated using a checklist that addressed the level of the response. Data was gathered and evaluated to determine how successful the strategies were for promoting critical thinking. Presenters will describe the strategies that were used to promote and assess critical thinking in e-discussion groups, such as providing specific examples of critical response, the use of a discussion checklist that specifically addresses critical and higher order thinking, and the use of a coding system to evaluate student responses. The presenters will share a common concern that participation in e-discussion lacks substantive contributions from students and that those discussions often reflect lower level thinking. Finally, presenters will share a model for evaluating e-discussions and for promoting critical thinking by students, based on the work of Kim, Wah & Lee (2007), Stein, Haynes & Unterstein (2003) and MacKinnon (2000). The model uses a coding system based on Bloom that encourages students to develop more critical discussion patterns as they participate in e-discussions. Students' discussions are evaluated and graded using this coding system and students are assigned points for discussions that reflect higher levels of Bloom. Participants will be asked to share their experiences with online learning particularly with respect to developing e-discussion topics. They will be presented with a sample of student data from an actual course and will work in small groups to analyze and evaluate