Critical Thinking in Asynchronous Discussions

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Extraits :

"Certain strategies should be followed for critical reflection and review. Instructional objectives should be posted at the start of the discussion. Learners should be able to select their own path of review and investigation. Learners should be able to interact frequently at a high level of cognitive involvement, and alternative paths should be available (Jones, 1996). Assignments should be relevant to encourage reflection and critical thinking. Integrating critical thinking into the online learning process requires information to be presented from a variety of perspectives that involves both the cognitive and affective learning domains (Muirhead, 2002).

Using a variety of writing activities can help promote critical thinking in asynchronous discussions. Common writing assignments include answering and responding to other learner’s discussion questions, analyzing case study’s, writing reports, research papers, projects and weekly summaries. Collaborative written assignments such as developing team reports on specific topics, group answers to discussion questions, joint research papers, debates, and critiques of arguments can also enhance critical thinking.

It is strategically important to provide writing activities that allow learners to take positions, and state their perspectives on subjects that relate to the course objectives.

Role playing can be an effective strategy to promote critical thinking in online discussions. One strategy is to have small groups of learners develop scenarios around specific course content, and assume roles within the scenarios (The Illinois Online Network, 2003). Another strategy is to have small teams of learners analyze a case study scenario with role playing (Creative use of on-line discussion areas: Suggestions to integrate technology, 2002). First, a scenario is presented in the online discussion and each team develops questions based on the scenario. Next, teams interview the facilitator, who assumes a role, by posting questions to the discussion. Next, each team member takes on a role representing different sides of specific issues and presents them by suggesting, interpreting, analyzing, evaluating, inferring, or explaining their positions. This helps learners critically compare their reasoning with other learners. Next, each team summarizes their findings and presents them online for feedback. Finally, learners post their ideas for a solution and receive feedback from other learners on how their ideas could be applied to another discipline, or how they could be expanded.

Facilitators need to acquire skills to help learners think critically in online discussions. They need to understand how to continue and reintroduce issues in later discussions without taking away from new issues. They need to understand how to facilitate dialogue, since it can be unpredictable, and can quickly change based on the opportunities that are presented in the discussions. It can also be difficult for facilitators to read and interpret critical and rhetorical exchanges since there is no formal criterion that describes how high-quality critical dialogue is disclosed (Morgan, 2001)."