Adding Value: Fostering Student Deliberations Across Modes of Instruction and Institutions

Adding Value: Fostering Student Deliberations Across Modes of Instruction and Institutions

Anita Chadha (University of Houston-Downtown, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1461-0.ch017


Research finds that fostering reflective deliberation in classes ensures that students reach a high level of achievement in their courses. This chapter evaluates student peer reflective exchanges across a four-year institution and a community college and both face-to-face and online modes of instruction at these differing institutions. Significant evidence reveals that regardless of institution type, students deliberate with academic reflectivity yet deliberate with greater reflectivity in face-to-face classes across both institutions. This study concludes that offering deliberative strategies are a viable means to offer pedagogical content across different modes of instruction and at differing institutions, a concern for educators and administrators in this digital age.
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As early as 1916, John Dewey noted the importance of knowledge as a process, one that entails self-reflection and consideration while being open to the ideas and consideration by others to meet the demands of living communally. Dewey’s longstanding ideas of community-based learning are closely aligned with deliberation, the notion that participants take time to reflect, deliberate and reconsider their views before responded to peers, the learning process that is the focus of this study.

An examination of the literature shows that deliberation is an effective mean for students in face-to-face classes, at four-year institutions, to consider and reflect upon the material before responding to each other with critical thought (Kenski & Stroud, 2006; Anderson et al., 2001; Boud et al., 2001; Chadha, 2018a). Research regarding the efficacy of deliberation has found that students who actively seek content and deliberative with peers have had better learning achievements than those who were not involved in deliberative processes (Pečar, 2016; Guay et al., 1995). Research additionally finds that student peer deliberations produce positive and measurable outcomes such as higher grades, increased knowledge, and more frequent participation in content (Bode et al., 2014; Kenski & Stroud, 2006; Chadha, 2018b; Anderson et al., 2001; Arasaratnam-Smith & Northcote, 2017; Rojas-Drummond et al., 2014).

Yet research examining the effectiveness of deliberations in online instruction at these institutions provides mixed evidence. Some research finds that deliberations across both modalities of education that is face-to-face and online are comparable in their educational outcomes (Boghikian-Whitby & Mortagy, 2016; Chadha, 2018b; Chadha, 2018c; Lyke & Frank, 2012). With numerous other studies confirm that with the use of deliberative strategies, retention rates are on par between face-to-face and online modes (Bolsen et al., 2016; Hastie et al., 2010; Kim & Bonk, 2006; Simonson et al., 2012; Tutty & Klein, 2008; Wladis et al., 2015). While still, other researchers find that the use of deliberative strategies in face-to-face courses surpass online course outcomes that used deliberative strategies (Hachey et al., 2013; Welker, 2012; Botsch & Botsch, 2012; Carpini & Keeter, 1996; Galston, 2007).

Despite this mixed evidence, researchers agree that when three elements are present online, critical thinking processes result as students discuss and deliberate with each other. These three elements, as diagrammed by the COL framework, are firstly that of the social presence of a peer. A peers social presence enhances deliberation as peers are not in a hierarchical position encouraging students to identify with each other as they consider, deliberate and reflect purposefully online. Continual deliberations with peers over time, also, build a sense of deliberative community as each adds to and furthers deliberations amongst themselves (Garrison et al., 2001). The second element in the framework, the cognitive presence element enhances deliberation as the students’ cognitive presence takes root through sustained reflection and discourse due to the asynchronous nature of online instruction. Asynchrony seemingly narrows the dialogue between just those present in the deliberations feeling like a continuous conversation among those participating (Rudestam & Schoenholtz-Reed, 2009). As students asynchronously “…work together, pool resources and accelerate learning” (Murchú & Sorensen, 2004, p. 1) the cognitive process takes root as they explore, reason, search for resources as they have time to think, reflect, reason and continue discussions at a later time, for example after taking care of work/home priorities furthering their cognition (Bryce, 2014; Chadha, 2018a; Garrison &Cleveland-Innes, 2005; Hrastinski, 2008; Pečar, 2016).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Differing Institutions: This refers to different forms of institutions in higher education such as 4yr public institutions and 2-year community colleges.

Online Deliberation: The term online deliberation describes the emerging field of practice and research related to the design, implementation and study of deliberative processes that rely on the web.

Modes of Instruction: The three common modes of instruction are online, hybrid/blended and face-to-face instruction. In an online course, all required work are internet-based. This includes instruction, learning activities, and interactions (both student-student and/or student-instructor). In a blended/hybrid Course online contact displaces some portion of the required contact hours that would normally take place in a scheduled face-to-face course. Contact includes instruction, learning activities, and interactions (both student-student and/or student-instructor). And in a face-to-face course contact includes instruction, learning activities, and interactions (both student-student and/or student-instructor).

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