Structuring Discussions: Online and Face-to-Face

I found a nice set of online discussion activities that strike me as good in-class discussion activities as well. One of the reasons discussion so often fails or doesn’t realize much of its potential is the absence of structure. The discussion is too open-ended. It wanders around and is easily sidetracked. I’m not discounting the value of an occasional unstructured exchange, but when students are still learning what academic discourse entails, a structure can keep the discussion focused and on track.

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I found a nice set of online discussion activities that strike me as good in-class discussion activities as well. One of the reasons discussion so often fails or doesn’t realize much of its potential is the absence of structure. The discussion is too open-ended. It wanders around and is easily sidetracked. I’m not discounting the value of an occasional unstructured exchange, but when students are still learning what academic discourse entails, a structure can keep the discussion focused and on track. The list of discussion activities are by Laurel Warren Trufant, in the article “Move Over Socrates: Online Discussion is Here.” I’ve added some comments and elaborations (in italics) after the author’s suggestions. If you’ve devised or use other structures that focus and direct discussion activities in your classes — whether face-to-face or online — please share your strategy below.