Unfortunately, one of the most common discussion teacher instructions is “Respond to 3 people.” Usually, a student has done something (answered a question, summarized a reading, given an example), and others are asked to respond. Unless the students know how to respond, they will simply make a brief comment back to the person, “Good job, Mike” and even an elaboration “Good job, Mike, on your use of science websites in your class.” does not provide helpful formative feedback. Even when they say, “Mike, your websites are very interactive and they show students the variables that impact any experiment,” they are not growing from reading the other student’s responses unless they also are a science teacher.
I think the learning that takes place is more important than the actual number of response. Have all students contribute to a common project is much more participatory such as researching how two different occupations use oral communication and share with each other so that the class can determine the types of work speaking they will learn. Have students brainstorm a topic such as different types of letter for a business class allows all students to share ideas. Have students peer-correct another student’s project or suggest improvements. Having each student find a different YouTube videos or podcasts that explains a science concept and be prepared to explain the science concept becomes exciting for students. When students know that doing the conversation with help them to learn, they become motivated. They do not see it as just an exercise.
What do you do to make your online discussions valuable learning experiences for your students instead of just counting (react to three people) activities?