Sample Materials for Discussion Boards
Sometimes I find it helpful to have some examples of assessment materials; so, I know what’s worked for someone else. That’s why we thought we’d share with you same sample assignment sheets for discussion boards, responses, and rubrics.
There isn’t a strict formula here, but for all of our assessments, it’s a good idea (following Flower Darby) to describe what you want students to do, why you want them to do it, how to do it, and when to do it. That holds true for discussion board assignments.
Below please find a sample description of the discussion-board assignment which I gave to my first-year ENGL class. Feel free to take what you need, tweak, add, change, or ignore (!), if it’s helpful.
Guidelines for Discussion Board Posts
As I’m sure you noticed in the syllabus, a good chunk of your final grade is reserved for your contributions to the discussion boards; they’re a good way for us to develop our thinking about the versions of love that each poem, play, story, or novel give voice to. So, I thought it would be a good idea to offer some guidelines and suggestions as you think about and create those posts.
Every week, you’re required to make two posts – one before Monday (at 5 pm) and one before the following Thursday (at noon). That way all the discussion doesn’t happen just near the end of the module. Of course, you can post more frequently, but I’m suggesting everyone limit themselves to five posts / week, somewhere between 100-200 words each.
When posting a response, reply initially to my question by using the “Create Thread” button, if it is available, or the “Reply” button, if I have already created the initial thread. Avoid creating a new forum.
I’m also requiring that at least one (and maybe both or all) of your posts responds to someone else one post (mine or another student’s).
As you write your posts, keep a few things in mind:
- Each post should reflect your engagement with text or the idea.
- Evidence-based claims are great; feel free to refer directly to the text.
- Also feel free to give voice to a particular impression or a question that you don’t have the answer to. In these cases, it would be helpful to explain where that impression or that question comes from.
- These discussion boards work best when we try to have an ongoing conversation about an idea or a text. Respond to one another’s comments – and check back regularly.
- We can disagree with and challenge ideas, but not people. Say, “I find that idea difficult especially in light of …” not “You’re being difficult” or “I can’t believe you don’t understand poetry.” Respect people above all else; polite and engaged discussion is always productive. Avoid flaming or personal attacks.
- This is an English class, so we’re going to try to avoid abbreviations (e.g., LOL). Make sure your posts are polished and clearly articulate your ideas.
Finally, I think there are some good models to follow. One way to approach these discussions is to treat it like an improv exercise. The secret to good improv (all comedians know this) is to approach each idea by saying “Yes, and ….” So, in this case, you might recognize the validity of a person’s claim; that’s the yes part: “I’m intrigued by your post’s recognition of Romeo’s weirdness ….” Then, add to it; that’s the “and” part: “Juliet’s weird too, especially when she …” In that way, you’re pushing the discussion forward.
Another strategy is to try to match a specific claim about a character or a poem or a novel to other cases in the text or in the module: “I hadn’t really thought about the father in The Road that way. And I agree he appears unpredictable, even volatile, when they are at the farmhouse. But I don’t think that he is always like that. His dominant mode seems to be …” In this way, you’re testing a claim’s validity.
Some Sample Responses for a Discussion Boards in “ENGL 1005: Love and Hate”
It might be helpful if I point out a few features of these responses or others that I’ve written.
- I say, “hmmm…” a lot. Or “huh.” Or “I think I understand your point of view.” I use those phrases because I want to show students that I’m thinking about their responses.
- I use exclamation marks way more than I do in other kinds of writing. I’m trying to signal my enthusiasm for the students’ ideas – and that’s the most obvious way I can do it.
- I try to start my posts with something I like about what the student has said; and then I try to ask a question that will expand their thinking or strengthen their idea. Usually, that push for expansion or strength takes the form of a question (or five).
- Here are some samples of responses that I’ve posted on discussion boards:
1. Hmmmm ... the nurse and the friar; I really like those suggestions -- and thanks for the detailed explanations.
I’d like to hear more about what they represent. Failed institutional authority? Failed care-givers? The failure of Veronan society to help Romeo and Juliet? Or are they there to prove how much love incites a kind of madness? Or something else altogether?
2. Thanks, [NAME] and [NAME]! I found your posts to be quite convincing, mostly because they speak to the idea that love doesn't conquer all here; or at least love can't wash out her shame. It must exist along side of it.
I’m curious, [NAME], about the phrase “true love.” What does that mean here? Just better than her love for the Marquis? I'd love to hear some thoughts on that relationship ...
3. Oh, that’s an intriguing way to put it, [NAME]: “forever in the shadow of her past”! And you’re right; that does make the story about trauma. Thanks for drawing our attention to that aspect of the story.
But what is the trauma -- the pain that the Marquis has caused (i.e., the fright that comes with nearly being killed)? Or is it the trauma born of foolishness or selfishness?
Since discussion boards are a new form of communication for our students, we should be clear about how we’re evaluating them. A rubic might also help with marking, so that we can be consistent in our evaluation. Find below some possible rubrics.
|Excellent (3)||Good (2)||Not Good (1)||Not There (0)|
|Quality of Ideas||
well-developed ideas, which encourage discussion
evidence of application, synthesis, or evaluation
substantiated by evidence
ideas point in some interesting directions but not far enough
repeats what appears in lecture or readings
interesting claims, not always supported by evidence
|ideas are off-topic or don’t account for the material covered in the readings or the lecture||posts are late or not done|
|Clarity||clearly-expressed ideas about complex issues||
majority of the post is understandable (but not all)
the clarity might reduce the complexity of the ideas expressed in the post
many of the details in the post are difficult to understand but the general point is accessible
|posts are very difficult to understand or not submitted|
|Contribution to Discussion||
original and ambitious contributions
encouraging further thought amongst peers
expresses excitement for other ideas; asks questions before dismissing other ideas
occasional interaction with others
shows excitement for ideas, without saying why or pushing conversation forward
leaps to the limitations of others’ posts without first clarifying or recognizing the value of the contribution
agrees with other ideas, without saying why
|late or incomplete|
|Helpful, thoughtful, compelling||
response offers a thorough, evidence-based response to the prompt or to another post; the response is original or asks a key question; the response moves the conversation forward
|Substantial||response is helpful and acknowledges some key evidence and relates to the prompt or another post||7|
|Superficial||response provides obvious info or repeats what has already appeared in the discussion; no clear sense that the post has moved the conversation forward; usually just “I agree”||5|
|Inappropriate or off-track||response doesn’t adequately address the prompt or another post||3|
Adapted from Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository at UCF
A 3-Point Scale, which Measures the Quality and Relevance of the Post
3: creative, thorough, motivating, helpful, prompts more discussion, reflective
2: appropriate, relevant, considerate of previous posts
1: unhelpful, off-topic, minimal effort (e.g., “I agree”)
A downloadable, Microsoft Word version of this resource is available.
Written by: Joel Baetz
Edited by: Kristine Weglarz
Last Updated: 24 August 2020