Exploiting Asynchronous Discussions in Class for Improving 3rd Grade Students’ Writing Ability

Exploiting Asynchronous Discussions in Class for Improving 3rd Grade Students’ Writing Ability

Tharrenos Bratitsis (Early Childhood Education Department, University of Western Macedonia, Florina, Greece) and Marina Kandroudi (Early Childhood Education Department, University of Western Macedonia, Florina, Greece)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/jec.2012100105

Abstract

The aim of the research was to examine the impact of asynchronous discussions’ usage in students’ writing ability. It is proposed that critical thinking skills could be cultivated through electronic discussions and through dialogues students have the opportunity to construct meanings, interact with others and thus acquire knowledge through meaningful communication. In support of this view, the present study was conducted with 3rd Grade students in a primary school in Athens, participating in the creation of an electronic, interactive newspaper through online discussions. The activity was implemented using the DIAS system, an asynchronous discussion platform with integrated Interaction Analysis tools, exploited in this case to facilitate the researcher’s analysis. The results indicate that students made significantly fewer mistakes in the online environment, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Additionally, they took initiatives, worked individually and were engaged into a purposeful interaction with others, therefore reinforcing autonomous learning. Finally their social skills were also facilitated, through the online discussions.
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Theoretical Background

One of the core issues in education is that of learning and sustaining students’ progress (Kress, 2004). In fact, learning is connected with Critical Thinking which is related to dialogue, educational discussions and students’ writings. Critical thinking is described as the intellectual and emotional activity through which a person evaluates the reliability of the perceived information (Matsaggouras, 2002). According to Wegerif (1998), thinking skills enable students’ ability to: a) evaluate what they read, hear and do, b) rationalize opinions and actions, c) draw inferences and make deductions, d) explain what they think, e) ask relevant questions, f) pose and define problems, g) generate and extend ideas, h) suggest hypotheses, and i) apply imagination.

Moreover, Matsaggouras (2002) supports that a student can develop critical thinking via interaction with other individuals. Students learn how to learn, therefore they acquire metacognitive skills. Metacognition is crucial when new knowledge is produced and thus for the overall educational process, as it helps individuals to regulate their learning (Panteliadou, 2002). Reflection, a metacognitive skill, is applied when a student examines the validity of information and draws conclusions, based on his/her research (Bratitsis, 2007). Reflection is directly connected with Critical Thinking, as students, through collaborative activities, are able to comprehend their errors, share knowledge and better understand a subject, while negotiating common meanings and posing common aims.

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