Student expectations for online discussions
I really like the “question” feature in Google Classroom.
Roughly half of my assignments are discussion questions.
Discussion questions are a simple way to collect student reflections.
Questions assignments are also really easy to grade!
It is important to set some basic expectations and ground rules to help your students understand your expectations.
These are the discussion guidelines I shared with my students.
Define your grading criteria
Before your first discussion assignment, consider your grading criteria:
- Do you have a minium length requirement?
- Will you be grading spelling and grammar?
- Do students need to reply to one another?
- How will the above elements be factored into the final grade?
Now that you have your grading criteria figured out, it’s time to share your discussion guidelines with your students.
Teach your students how to read and reply to a discussion question
Don’t assume that your students know how to successfully participate in a discussion assignment.
Without some basic instruction and training, your first discussion will be a disaster (believe me, I have personal experience!).
I wrote up a pretty detailed set of guidelines for my online discussions. I share these online discussion guidelines with my students the first time we do a class discussion and spend time explaining my expectations.
Here are my discussion guidelines for students:
- Completely read the discussion prompt.
- Not reading ALL of the parts of the prompt is a common reason that students lose points on their response.
- A prompt may contain more than one part. Be sure to answer all of the parts.
- You may find it helpful to rewrite the prompt in outline form, making note of each part (i.e. a., b., c., etc).
- Compose your reply
- Write in complete sentences with proper punctuation and grammar.
- Address ALL of the parts of the prompt.
- Instructors will be looking for your response to each part of the prompt. Make it easy for them by numbering/lettering your post or separating it into logical paragraphs/sections.
- It is important that you have a clear topic sentence for each of your paragraphs. This helps clearly communicate the major idea that you are discussing in each paragraph/section.
- Replying to a post
- Some assignments will require that you reply to another student’s post in addition to posting your own response to the prompt.
- Your response, MUST extend or add to the original post in some way.
- “Good job”, “Nice Post”, or “Great thoughts”, do NOT extend or add to the original post.
- Having trouble thinking of a reply? Here are some ideas:
- Ask a relevant and substantial question
- Share an experience you had that is related to the original post.
- Connect the post that you wrote the post you are responding to.
- Disagree (politely) with the author and explain why you don’t agree.
Remind students of your expectations in each discussion question.
The guidelines above are pretty detailed.
I include an abbreviated version of these expectations in each of the discussion prompts I post to Google Classroom.
Here’s what that looks like
Keeping the key requirements in front of students increases the likelihood that they will follow the guidelines and provides a clear signpost that I can point to when students miss the mark.