Combining Multiple Innovations to Foster Forum Reflection: Macro-Chunking, Forum Silence, Role Play, and an Advance Organizer

Combining Multiple Innovations to Foster Forum Reflection: Macro-Chunking, Forum Silence, Role Play, and an Advance Organizer

Shirley Freed, Janine Monica Lim
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3292-8.ch007
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


This chapter is a case study showing how multiple innovations such as macro-chunking, forum silence, role-play, and an advance organizer describing mental models worked together to engender deep reflection and meaningful dialogue in an online graduate worldview course. It uses the community of inquiry framework to help define the purpose of the discussion forum to construct personal meaning and confirm mutual understanding. Specific pedagogical designs for facilitating deep learning are shared. These designs provide innovative alternatives to readers creating online courses. Quotes from the final discussion forum show how multiple innovations together created a powerful learning environment.
Chapter Preview


Is it possible to be teaching the “what” and “why” in such a way that the “how” limits what can be learned?—Sally

Sally (pseudonyms used throughout) asked this question in the first discussion forum on the purpose of education. Her question captures the essence of this case study, showing how one faculty member combined multiple innovative course design approaches to engage the learners in deep, reflective thinking about their worldview.

Faculty members continue to experiment with different ways to organize their material to engage students and increase critical thinking (T. Anderson & Dron, 2010). The discussion forum is often viewed as the place where students show evidence of their thinking, yet the discussion forum can become a challenge when it is used in typical ways, such as requiring a specific number of posts or number of words (Crossley et al., 2015; Jeffery, 2018; Jo, Park, & Lee, 2017). Researchers have explored various formats for structuring discussion forums: structured responses (Curry & Cook, 2014), restricting access to the forum (Morrison, Watson, & Morrison, 2012), co-facilitation (Milman, Hillarious, & Walker, 2012), and the use of groups (Wickersham & Dooley, 2006). However, efforts continue to search for ways to use discussion-based teaching methods resulting in the construction of knowledge and the demonstration of reflective thinking.

The focus of this case study is one graduate-level semester class, Issues in Leadership Foundations, a required, asynchronous online class for students registered in an MA or PhD in Leadership at a small Midwestern university in the United States. The course is a survey of worldviews with the expectation that leadership students will exhibit the skills and motivation to dialogue in humble and respectful ways with those holding different worldviews. The course has been required for all distance students for about fifteen years and has gone through several redesigns. Over time, the professor recognized that traditional one-week discussion forums often lacked depth, and time seemed to prevent delving into the nuances of a topic before another topic began. Others noted similar problems (Guzdial & Turns, 2000; Mason, 2011; van der Pol, Admiraal, & Simons, 2006). The purpose of this case study is to describe how the most recent redesign of the course incorporated multiple innovations in an effort to deepen reflective thinking: organizing the material into five chunks with two-week forums, adding one week of forum silence in each chunk, using role-play to deepen the exploration (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001) of various philosophical perspectives, and using an advance organizer describing mental models of dialogue within discussion forums. By using quotes from the students in the discussion forums of this class, this case study shows how the redesign of the class resulted in deep reflection and meaningful dialogue. This chapter is organized into the following sections: background and literature, course design addressing the four innovations, in their own words showing evidence of deep reflection, and recommendations for future research.



Sometimes, there is just a general acceptance that things are as they should be. Without an honest examination, any system will continue to generate the same results.—MaryJo

Key Terms in this Chapter

Chunk: A section of the course content; may be a macro-chunk or micro-chunk.

Micro-Chunk: Single ideas that are subsumed under the macro-chunk.

Macro-Chunking: Organizing a course around two or more big ideas or concepts.

Micro-Chunking: Organizing a course around specific self-contained narrow concepts.

Discussion Forum Silence: Deliberately planned time within a course when students are not expected to post in the discussion forums.

Mental Models: Mindsets that drive a student’s interaction in the forum.

Macro-Chunk: A collection of ideas that are conceptually related.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: