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@2006 Ed Gallagher, Professor of English, Lehigh Lab Fellow. Lehigh University.
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BACKGROUND: MAJOR FINDINGS

  • a very high percentage of the students (75%) had used discussion boards before
  • over half of the previous uses were in classes taught by English department graduate students
  • most previous discussion board activity was of the one solitary post or, much less frequently, the one post/one response variety
  • the previous teachers were articulating pedagogical goals for the discussion board, and the students were aware of them
  • the main goal of discussion board use stated by the students might be described as facilitating interaction leading to better understanding
  • discussion board use ranged from not required at all to five times per week, with the largest number (1/3) at once per week and second largest (1/4) at twice per week
  • thirteen of the sixteen students here either had no instruction, not much instruction, inadequate instruction, or instruction after the fact in how to make discussion board posts
  • the percentage of grade value for discussion board posts ranged from 0% to 30%, with 1/3 at 15-20% and 1/6 at 0%  (Unfortunately, I did not ask about the criteria for grading)
  • students' personal feelings about their own discussion board work was mixed
  • students were overwhelmingly positive about the beneficial value of reading the posts of others
  • 1/2 of the students felt that the discussion board added value to the learning in the course, but the other 1/2 expressed strong mixed or negative responses
  • 50% of the students said that the teacher was the reason for their best college class, 25% said interaction with other students, and 25% said the subject matter
  • noticeable among the laudatory comments about the teachers were references to classroom management, to creating an atmosphere conducive to learning rather than to the teacher-as-oracle
  • 80% of the students felt that other students played an important role in their own learning process, specifically in terms of functioning as another teacher and in widening horizons
  • student metaphors reveal they see themselves as passive, joyless toilers in a community-less middle world