(Re)Assessing Student Thinking in Online Threaded Discussions

(Re)Assessing Student Thinking in Online Threaded Discussions

Felicia Saffold (University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1906-7.ch014
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A teacher educator examines the level of critical thinking of her preservice teachers participating in an urban education course through online discussions. The objective was to see if online discussions, which were the heart of the learning process, could be an effective strategy to promote critical thinking skills. Using the revised version of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001) as a guide, participants’ posts and responses were assessed to determine the quality of thinking that occurred in the online discussion forum. Results show that utilizing online discussion forums can be an effective pedagogy for classes where complex, often controversial issues such as social justice, equity, and white privilege are discussed.
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Students begin their professional coursework with an introductory teaching class. A capstone course for the School of Education, Introduction to Teaching, offers a thorough introduction and examination of urban education issues to approximately 200 teacher education students each semester who have an interest in pursuing a teaching career. Students are primarily white females from backgrounds very different from the students they will teach in urban areas. Students participate in weekly discussions designed to help them explore and understand the dynamics of teaching and learning in urban schools and complete 50 hours of field experience in a local school setting. Typically, students are uncomfortable addressing issues related to urban schooling, fearing awkwardness or conflict. For this reason, I use a variety of techniques to try and help overcome these barriers. For example, I begin with less controversial topics like parental involvement equity in urban schools before tackling more sensitive issues like white privilege. I share my expectations for class participation, based on an agreement to honor each other's differences and experiences; and I use role-playing or debates to help students see how others might perceive an issue differently. These activities require students to do some thinking beyond what they can recall from the textbook.

According to a recent NCEI report, 84% of teachers are white and students of color are growing. Therefore, it is imperative that we prepare future teachers who can effectively teach students whose cultural backgrounds are different from their own (Banks, 2000; Howard, 2006). Unless preservice teachers become aware of their own preconceptions and how those preconceptions affect their notion of teaching and learning they are unlikely to deconstruct their preconceptions and construct a new vision that includes culturally responsive practices that are fair and equitable for all students.

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