Peer Learning


Extract from Issue#23 of Teaching Tuesdays@CSU

All issues of Teaching Tuesdays can be accessed through the folder at this link

Peer Learning Opportunities in the Online Discussion Forum

How to Design and Facilitate Online Discussions that Improve Student Learning and Engagement

By: Dr Meixun Sinky Zheng


(See below for instructions on how to access the CSU free subscription to this resource).

A wide range of learning activities can provide opportunities for peer learning, as suggested in this week’s SES focus item. This 48-minute webinar presented by Dr Zheng focuses on one such opportunity, Online Discussions.

Common challenges with online discussions that are addressed include:

• Students don’t participate.

• Discussion remains at surface level.

• Discussion stops shortly after it starts.

These are addressed with strategies and examples of activities in three broad areas and supported with evidence from academic literature:

• Design

• Facilitation

• Assessment

of online discussions.

Design online discussions

• Ask higher level discussion questions.

• Use a variety of discussion activities.

• Use a variety of discussion tools.

Facilitate online discussions

The BDA model: Before, During and After reading (Vacca et al, 2016)

Before discussion.

  • Give clear instructions.
  • Communicate expectations and reinforce throughout the course.
  • Provide exemplary and poor discussion examples.
  • Focus on online community building.

During discussion.

  • Make yourself visible.
  • Encourage students to provide constructive peer comment.
  • Encourage students to respond to peers’ comments.
  • Handle strong discussion behaviors effectively.

After discussion.

  • Summarize the discussion.
  • Clarify misconceptions.
  • Answer remaining questions.

Assess online discussions

• Grading categories – includes provision of effective rubrics.

• Provide constructive feedback to students.

… and finally, some suggestions to …

Manage your workload

Particularly applicable to large online classes or blended learning classes

• Check the forum two or three time each week

• Respond to a subgroup of students in each forum.

• Address student questions in the classroom.

• Grade a subset of discussion forums.

Reference available from CSU library

Vacca, R. T., Vacca, J. A. L., & Mraz, M. E. (2016). Content area reading: Literacy and learning across the curriculum (12th ed.). Boston, Mass.: Pearson. [10th edition, 2011 is in library]

Presentation handouts, full transcripts and supplementary resources are available for download from the Magna Commons website if you don’t have time to listen to the seminar.

… a few more thoughts …

An interesting article available from CSU library:

Herzog, M. A., & Katzlinger, E. (2017). The multiple faces of peer review in higher education. Five learning scenarios developed for digital business. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics Science and Technology Education. 13(4): 1121-1143. doi:10.12973/eurasia.2017.00662a

A Before Discussion strategy for online community building: Ideas for Small Group Activities Online.

Think Aloud
Social Annotation of Text
Pro-Con Grids
Respond, React, Reply
Peer Review
Group Text Reading
Post It Parade
Case Studies