Encouraging Active Participation in Discussion Boards

Flawed pedagogy, lack of learner preparation, and reliance on extrinsic motivation can detract from the learning potential of discussion boards. In an interview with Online Classroom, Naomi Jeffery Petersen, associate professor of education at Central Washington University, discussed these problems and offered advice on getting students involved in meaningful ways.

To continue reading, you must be a Teaching Professor Subscriber. Please log in or sign up for full access.

Related Articles

Love ’em or hate ’em, student evaluations of teaching (SETs) are here to stay. Parts <a href="https://www.teachingprofessor.com/free-article/its-time-to-discuss-student-evaluations-bias-with-our-students-seriously/" target="_blank"...

Since January, I have led multiple faculty development sessions on generative AI for faculty at my university. Attitudes...
Does your class end with a bang or a whimper? Many of us spend a lot of time crafting...

Faculty have recently been bombarded with a dizzying array of apps, platforms, and other widgets that...

The rapid rise of livestream content development and consumption has been nothing short of remarkable. According to Ceci...

Feedback on performance has proven to be one of the most important influences on learning, but students consistently...

Flawed pedagogy, lack of learner preparation, and reliance on extrinsic motivation can detract from the learning potential of discussion boards. In an interview with Online Classroom, Naomi Jeffery Petersen, associate professor of education at Central Washington University, discussed these problems and offered advice on getting students involved in meaningful ways.

A common mistake is using the discussion board as a way to monitor students' reading comprehension and to hold them accountable for what they've read rather than using it as an opportunity for conversation.

“It's a misplaced coercion. It's a matter of thinking that the professor is the only audience for what they're doing, and that's where you get into completely extrinsic motivation,” Petersen says.

To trigger intrinsic motivation, Petersen recommends developing a community-of-learners approach that expands the audience for what they know, and this knowledge is not simply comprehension but analysis and application of the content. Taking this approach gets learners interested in each other's knowledge. “When they become differentiated as individuals and know that other people realize how much they know, the motivation is not that they're being held accountable or that it counts for a grade. It's that this is part of who they are,” Petersen says.

This self-regulation consists of three components:

Petersen recommends the following techniques to encourage productive participation:

“This adds some accountability because we have quite a number of hitchhikers who are quite passive … and are not in the role of contributing knowledge, only consuming it and regurgitating it,” Petersen says.