Developing Expectations for Participation in Discussion Through Active Learning Scenarios

Concurrent Session 4
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

In order to increase the quality of student participation and learning through discussion, an active learning scenario was designed and piloted.  This session will review the pilot, offer strategies for developing activities that establish learner expectations, and provide an opportunity to discuss tailoring scenarios for use in participants’ own courses.


Caitlin's primary role involves partnering with teaching faculty to create and develop courses in the online, blended, and face-to-face environments. In addition, Caitlin serves as the designer, facilitator, and instructional design consultant for WPI's online faculty development workshop, the Faculty Institute for Online Teaching and provides professional development opportunities on a variety of topics including online learning, project-based learning, flipped classroom strategies, and assessment and evaluation methodologies. Caitlin holds a Master of Science degree in Learning Technologies and Instructional Design from Drexel University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Lebanon Valley College. Prior to joining WPI, Caitlin taught high school chemistry with a focus in inclusion classes for students with special needs.

Extended Abstract

In order to help students develop a stronger understanding of the expectations, an active learning scenario was developed through collaboration between a faculty member and an instructional designer.  A mock discussion board forum was populated with initial posts and peer responses from five fictitious students.  The topic of the mock discussion involved the instructional concepts covered within the first week of the course.  Students were asked to read through the discussion forum and assign a grade to each fictional student based on the provided participation rubric.  This activity provided clear examples of high quality discussion, while also highlighting common misconceptions about participating in discussion activities.  The grades generated by students were reviewed by the professor and discussed with the whole class to address the misconceptions and to highlight key aspects of discussion, such as utilizing critical thinking and analysis rather than summarizing course content.

In the original version of the course where the participation rubric was simply provided, 20% of students consistently exhibited critical thinking within discussion.  With the implementation of the active learning scenario for setting discussion expectations, 100% of students demonstrated critical thinking in apply course content.  In addition, the revised course required much less individual corrective feedback from the instructor which cut down significantly on time spent on grading.  This style of scenario learning activity has been implemented into blended courses, but can also be applied to entirely asynchronous courses, as well as within face-to-face classes.

To summarize, active learning scenarios are likely to increase student understanding in the expectations for engaging in meaningful discussions.  These scenarios can be designed to fit intricately within the course content as an integrated learning activity within the online environment.

In this interactive presentation, the participants will have an opportunity to experience the active learning scenario that was used in the pilot.  Participants will be introduced to the results and experiences of the pilot from the perspectives of both faculty and instructional designers.  In addition, strategies for implementing active learning scenarios for setting expectations will be address and participants will have an opportunity to discuss how they could tailor a scenario to align with the needs of their own online courses.