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@2006 Ed Gallagher, Professor of English, Lehigh Lab Fellow. Lehigh University.
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The last unit and the 5-step interchange: serve, return, field the return, volley1, volley2.  Because this was the culmination of the discussion board work -- like the final exam -- I put the students in pairs for more focused work, and asked the first one to serve.  Because of the longer interchange and the care I wished them to give to each step, the students were told to take a week to complete the five steps but to pace themselves for best results.  Students were encouraged to read any and all posts on the board but to post only with their partner.  Thus, there were to be five posts altogether -- the server doing 3, the returner 2.  As it turns out 1/2 the groups went over the five required posts!  Two groups did 7 interchanges, three did 6 interchanges, three did the required 5 interchanges, and two did only 4 interchanges.

My sense is that as a class these posts were better than any of the previous units, and, again, it's interesting that 1/2 the groups went longer than required.  What's going on to account for these two factors?  Now I did not bill this as a "final exam," though I guess I may have heightened expectations by saying that, of course, at this end point in the semester they should be at the top of their game.  So maybe the students were trying harder.  But I wonder more if the smaller group and the longer time were the key operative factors in enhancing quality and engagement.  I wonder, then, if the one-to-one immediacy and the time to focus completely on one post at a time improved both the quality and quantity of the groups.  Something to think about.

Putting students in pairs is tricky and starkly brings up the question that I have not dealt with so far of the relation between the quality of discussion board work and the characteristics of the group members.  It's obvious that so much depends on whom you are grouped with.  How should we put groups together?  Do you pair good students?  Do you mix good with bad?  Do you pair weak students?  Who gets the responsibility to serve?  What happens to discussion in each of those scenarios?  I consciously paired specific people for different reasons in this last unit, perhaps a bit more consciously than with the larger groups in the previous units, though there were no random groupings except for the first unit.  I have been characterizing most of the students as their work has appeared in previous student work sections, and in the following sections of student work I'll say a few words about what I had in mind with the pairings.  

So, in the next several documents, find all the final volley2 interchanges except for one whose data disappeared from Blackboard when he left the university.  Instead of my step-by-step reflection on each post this time, I have added one general reflection at the end, trying to focus on at least one interesting feature of the interchange.