ZML Didaktik / Innovative Learning Scenarios

Categories to evaluate discussion posts

Posted on: May 23, 2013

For our article about the e-elearning part of our training of “Hochschuldidaktik” (pedagogy /didactics used in universities) we want to use the categories for online exchange described by Bill Pelz in his article Three Principles of Effective Online Pedagogy, JALN Volume 8, Isssue 3, June 2004.

Bill has a long experience in online teaching and observes that he is diminishing the role of the “teacher” in his scenarios because he realizes that the learner is in charge of his or her learning process.

For his effective online learning design he is using 3 principles:

  • Let the students do (most of) the work – which means that he encourages student to learn to be facilitators of their discussions.
  • Interactivity is the heart and the soul of effective asynchronous learning – in this article Bill states that reading and writing is superior to listening and talking with respect to learning. It’s also my experience. Writing in his or her own time gives learners the possibility to write something, do a small research, read it again, change it – and afterwards post it. Furthermore students who tend to be silent during lectures are more eloquent in an asynchronous discussion. Of course there are as well persons who are brilliant in face-to-face discussions and don’t like the slower online discussion process.
  • Strive for presence – Bill writes that online students succeed in “bonding” and the “absence of appearance-faced factors” hinder “stereotypical expectations”. Last week I interviewed a teacher of my university and she said something similar. She encourages students to give feedback; face-to-face feedback is often without value because the students don’t confront each other with critical feedback. In the virtual room the feedback is more critical and more helpful. My colleague hypothesizes that this effect arises because online her students are more anonymous.

According to Bill Pelz (based on Garrison, D.R., Anderson, T., and Archer, W. Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education. The Internet and Higher Education 2(2–3): 1–19, 2000) discussion posts fall into three categories: social presence, cognitive presence and teaching presence.

Social presence

means that the learners act as “real people”. Social presence can be presented in affective, interactive and cohesive forms. In Gilly Salmon’s phase of “online socialisation” the social presence plays an important part. Before learners can establish a common and positive learning climate they need to get to know each other a little bit, to build trust (see Etienne Wenger: comunities of practice).

Affective expressions give some insights into the author of a contribution, Interacting to a post is the evidence of reading and thinking about the contributions of others. Cohesive posts help a group to define common goals.

Cognitive presence

constructs and confirms meaning by inserting knowledge into the discussion. These contributions need to be clear, accurate, comprehensive. They do not need to be complete because completeness ends the discussion,

Teaching presence

supports the social and the cognitive development of the group by ecnouraging and creating a climate for learning (moderation), by presenting content and questions, summarizing and focussing (direct instruction).

All participants of an e-learning environement, teachers and students, learners and trainers can contribute to discussions in these three presences.

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