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@2006 Ed Gallagher, Professor of English, Lehigh Lab Fellow. Lehigh University.
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SERVES REVISITED AND YOUR FIRST "RETURNS"

This fourth survey was given in week 5, the "meta-week" after the second unit in the course, on Uncle Tom's Cabin.   In week 4 on Uncle Tom's Cabin the students were divided into groups of 5 or 6.  They were asked to serve each of the three class days and to respond to each of the 4 or 5 other members of their group each of those three days as well.  Thus, a student in a group of 6 was responsible for 6 posts per class = 18 for the week.  This is the third survey touching on their serves and the first dealing with returns.  The students were given relatively brief introductory instructions about returns.

The Prompt:

The discussion board format was slightly different for the Uncle Tom’s Cabin unit (unit 2) than it was for The Awakening (unit 1).  This time you were asked not only to “serve” but to “return” a serve to others and receive “returns” from others.  In this survey I want you to reflect on both of those activities for 9/15, 9/17, and 9/19 (not 9/22, that was a different kind of activity).  In your responses I want you to refer to the “five eyes” and the “guidelines” documents, both in Course Documents and both of which we went over in class.  You might want to open two screens so that you can refer back and forth between the survey and the documents.  The purpose of this exercise is to make you conscious of changes, if any, in your serving pattern and to begin to think about what makes a good “return” – all aimed at the goal of improving your contribution to group knowledge.

The Questions:

(click here for a summary of all student responses as well as my commentary,
or click on the numbers below for the summary and commentary on the specific questions )

1)  Did you serve each of the three days within the 24-hr. time-frame from the due date per the Attendance guidelines?  If not, how many serving posts did you do?  If not, why didn’t you do the three posts within the time-frame?

2)  Look at your serves.  Think about the same questions I asked you about serves in the last unit.  That is, using the “five eyes” as a guide, how would you describe the serves that you made?  Were they all the same or similar, or was there a variety of approaches?  On the basis of these reflections, would you say that from a “five eyes” perspective you served the same way this time or differently?  Please be specific.

3)  Look at your serves.  Think about some new questions.  After the last unit, everybody picked a “best” serve, and we talked for more than one class about the stylistic elements of a good serve.  Do you remember what some of those stylistic elements were?  Were you conscious of utilizing some of those stylistic elements in this unit?  As you look at your serves now, would you say that they are written in the same or a different manner?  In short, are your serves in this unit stylistically different than your serves in the previous unit?   Yes – why?  No – why?  Please be specific.

4)  Look at your serves.  And think of these same questions above from a different angle.  We talked in class about the “guidelines” document in Course Documents.  Some of those guidelines apply to serves: like free writing, chasing, reading others in your group before you post, writing in the 150-250 word range, signing your posts.  Did you remember these guidelines when you were posting?  Were you conscious of utilizing these guidelines when you served?  As you look at your serves now, which of these guidelines did you follow, which not?  In short, are your serves in this unit different from this perspective than your serves in the previous unit?  Please be specific.

5)  Look at your serves.  Which one would you choose as your best?  Be specific – identify date and title.  Why would you choose that one?  What makes it a good serve?

6)  Look at the serves of your group members.  Which one would you choose as the best?  Be specific – identify the person’s name, as well as date and title.  Why would you choose that one?  What makes it a good serve?

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7)  Now let’s move to “returns.”  Did you reply to each of your group members each of the three days?  If no, why not?

8)  How about “returns” to your serves?  How many returns did you get to each of your serves?

9)  Look at the returns you received from your group members.  Pick out the one that you think of as the best (ok, you can list some honorable mentions if you wish). A) Give the writer's name, the date, and the title of the post. B) Why were you attracted to this return? What effect did it have on you?  C) Can you identify the strategy the writer used that makes it an excellent return? D) If you are hard-pressed to choose a “best” because you felt the quality of the returns was low, give a specific example or two (name, date, title) of a return that failed for you and give reasons why.

10)  Look at your returns.  What was going through your mind as you made your returns?  What were you conscious of?  What did you think your purpose was? 

11)  Look at your returns.  One of the “guidelines” is specifically applicable to returns: signing your post.  Did you sign your returns?

12)  Look at your returns.  Pick 2 or 3 that are interesting to talk about for some reason.  Not necessarily your “best,” but ones perhaps that represent a variety of situations that returners face.  One may have been easy for you to do, and your return was immediate.  Another might have been hard for some reason because of the nature of the serve or the complexity of the topic, requiring a lot of thought about an appropriate response.  In one you might have felt you had to be diplomatic because you disagreed, in another supportive, and in yet another provocative, etc., etc.. Talk about 2 or 3 situations, and the nature and the strategies of your returns in them.  Please be specific, indicating the person to whom you are responding, the date, and the title of the post.

13)  One problem with postings this week brought to my attention by three of you was absence or tardiness of group members from the discussion board, so that there were few or no interactions.  Was this a problem in your group?  If so, how do you feel about that?  If so, did you take any action to deal with the situation?  If so, what suggestions do you have about how to avoid such situations in the future?  If you can see yourself as part of that problem, how do you feel about that?

14)  How about the relation between class discussion and the discussion board?  Are you aware that any of your serves or returns were related to class discussion?  If so, please be specific.  If not, why do you think there was no relation?

15)  Is there anything else that you would like to comment on relative to the discussion board activity in this second unit?