Discussion As A Learning Strategy Education Essay

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Askell-Willams and Lawson(2005) has carried out a sophisticated study in teaching-learning discussion, they investigated the topic in different aspect, and the overview below are concluded by views of expertise in perspectives of psychological, sociological-constructivism and socio-linguists.

There is a convincing reason that why discussion can serve as teaching and learning purpose. Dillon (1994) stated that discussion can benefit in "understanding of subject matter and resolution of issues related to the subject matter and its educational function; personal growth; and understanding of the value of group reflection and deliberation".

Discussion is also a primary mechanism in students' social transactions. The discussion itself served as a knowledge construction process. Social transactions in classroom can encourage student to put the knowledge into "public domain", their reasoning and understands can then be the augmented, examined, elaborated, critiqued and related to the understandings of other people.

Tobin, Tippins, and Gallard (1994) also stated that the role of discussion provided a perfect platform for students to interact. Group interaction can provide a background in which student can be negotiate differences of opinion and seek agreement. It is more important that student can generate question and clarify understanding of specific content. Peers interaction can develop their ability to speak out, unafraid in order to take a proper stand.

Based on the social cognitive perspective, discourse is also a primary deliberation tool for cognitive development. Nuthall (1997) proposed that the potential benefit of discourse is "transactional relationship between socio-cultural experience and self-organizational activities of the mind". Such activities of the mind are facilitated through discussion, Askell-Willams and Lawson showed us an example. If a student only acquires knowledge from a teacher, the student will only incorporate the "single dependent perspective of the student-teacher relationship". If, on the other hand, the student acquires the knowledge in discussion in which different perspectives are described, explained and debated, the student's representation of the schema will incorporate a "larger network of intertwined social and logical relationships". Such a network defines the dimensions of a mental space within which the student can explore, interact with, and try out alternative beliefs, arguments, and conclusions. (Nuthall, 1997, p. 743)

Problem rose from discussion

Of course using discussion as a learning strategy is not suitable in every situation. Baxter, Woodward and Olson (2001) showed that learning through class discussion might not effective for those "low-achieving" students, it is too difficult for them to involved in the discussion frequently and they may not have chance to speak out according to their shyness.

Hollander (2002) also noted that the organization of effective discussion at the individual level is not straightforward. Some student talk much while other talks little, the content of discussions can be awkward, there is no guarantee that the discussion content will be "threaded in a coherent manner" and not all students might have developed effective skill for contribution. It should also be noted that, leaving student discuss by their own will not engaging an effective discussion. Many students need specific instruction in order to know how to ask proper questions and give proper respond.

Although the expertise may agree that discussion is a potential learning strategy for education, the key stockholder is the learner. If students' knowledge is not enough to allow them to make effective use of a discussion, just like "how to act effectively", "how to ask proper questions "and "how to give proper respond", in this situation, the benefit of discussion as a learning approach are unlikely to be study.

The value of collaboration and discussion in learning strategy for Online learning Environment

J. Clark / Stimulating collaboration and discussion in online

learning environments Internet and Higher Education 4 (2001) 119-124

From the above, we can see that how discussion benefit in students' learning, here we will discuss the value of collaboration and discussion in learning strategy for Online Learning Environments (OLEs). Clark(2001) stated that although it is achievable that learning with student interaction(passive learning), active learning through interaction including "faculty acting as peers, guides, and moderators" is generally consider more effective and well suited to OLEs.

Discussion is not like the traditional instructor lecture method of education. Discussion and collaboration increased students' involvement in which engages students actively participated in the learning process compare with the traditional instructor lecture teaching method, discussion are able promote the belonging of "students' achievement and satisfaction". (Hiltz, 1998; Johnson, 1981)."

Clark stated that, although the student and instructor remained as a key player in the discussion as learning strategy, there are still some different between the traditional classroom and OLEs. The diagram stated below illustrated their different.

Tradition Classroom


Lecture Time

Lecture time is limited

Online classes run 24 hour a day from the beginning to the end of the course

Class Disruption

Casual conversations in the classroom will disrupt the order of the class

Discussion forums have replaced the casual conversations in the classroom and have a permanent written log

Discussion quality

Discussion in class are always rapid and experimental

Discussions are no longer rapid and experimental. The discussion tool can be well defined in order to facilitate students' discussion

Respond Time

Discussion in class are always conduct spontaneously, student has no enough time to think about the question and do a proper respond

Students have enough time to read other student's comments, do research, and formulate a detailed response

Student Secret Dialogues

Secret student dialogues are not easy catch during the class

For the discussion room there are no worry about secret student dialogues, all data will be logged and all the interactivities can be trace out from log

Time and Space Limitation

Students may not participate at any time of the day; the discussion is limited by the location and space.

Students may participate at any time of the day that suits them from work, home, or while traveling.

Students' Motivation

The discussion is Instructor mediated, instructor played an important to motivate student to learn.

The discipline imposed by traditional fixed meeting times and places with reminders of due dates is replaced by the requirement that the students self-motivate and maintain control of their contributions and deadlines.

Fig1. The different between traditional classroom and OLEs.

The Shift of Face to Face discussion to Computer Mediated Discussion

From the last session, we can see that there is advantage of using OLEs in discussion than traditional classroom. How about student? Do they also want to use the electronic resources to learn and interact with each other? An and Frick (2006) [i] found that student preferred to use computer mediated communication (CMC) than face to face (F2F) as communication media under certain condition. Here are the reasons:


The location and time become an independent variable in CMC such that student can perform discussion on web anywhere.

Interactivity increased

The flexibility of digital learning platform also contributed to the second point, it will increase the interactivity between the students and as well as the Instructor. The learning style of the students is thus transform from independent learning to peers learning by the use of computer aids. Sutton (2001) [ii] (in An and Frick, 2006) suggested that CMC has caused the shift from "correspondence learning" to "social learning". Berge (1995) [iii] (in An and Frick, 2006) has also suggested the interaction among instructors, students, contents and interface have been "maximized" in the online discussion and thus facilitate the constructive thinking.

Allow student to learn by their own pace

When compare to F2F, CMC provide student more time to respond the question. It allows student to analysis and reflect the question with enough time so that they can compose thoughtful responds. Student can thus learn by their own peak in CMC, they can also take control to their learning and interact with the peer in order to build knowledge.

Overview of the Discussion Tool - Synchronized and Asynchronous Discussion tool

Discussion is definitely a common implementation for Computer Mediate Communication. Generally, online discussion tool can divided in to two types, they are synchronized and asynchronous discussion tool. And as educational platforms, the two distinct format of interaction impact differently. In this session, we are going to investigate the pros and cons of these discussion tools in learning.

What is asynchronous discussion tool?

According to Johnson(2006), asynchronous instruction "occurs in delayed time and does not require the simultaneous participation of student and teacher". The asynchronous instruction was used in distance education in the early year due to postal delays. The asynchronous voice conferencing are already proven useful in some instructional contexts, text-based asynchronous instruction are also widely used in the post-secondary education, it can also be considered as asynchronous online discussion.

Johnson stated that educators has been investigate the efficiency of asynchronous online discussion, they reported that it can "encouraging in-depth, more thoughtful discussion; communicating with temporally diverse students; holding ongoing discussions where archiving is required; and allowing all students to respond to a topic" (Branon & Essex, 2001, p. 36).

There are also potential limitations of the asynchronous discussion room. Student may not check the forum frequently, lack of spontaneous feedback may lead students feel isolated, it is necessary to spend more time in the discussion in order to make it mature (Branon & Essex,

2001, p. 36).

All in all, Dede and Kremer (1999) conducted a survey to check the students' preferences of asynchronous discussion tool. They found that the asynchronous discussion provided a more comprehensive interchange for them, but it required more time and provided less social interaction than synchronous chat.

What is synchronous discussion tool?

According to Johnson(2006), "Synchronous instruction occurs in real time and requires the simultaneous participation of students and teacher". The synchronous instruction was used in the closed circuit television on university campus in the early year. Until 1980s, video-conferencing and interactive television connected remote classroom, in which, the synchronous discussion allow student to ask question and perform interaction in spontaneously, the educators start conduct study how synchronous discussion tool help student in learning.

As you can see, synchronous communication tools allow multiple users communicate with each other at the same time using text messages, report (Branon & Essex, 2001, p. 36) showed that synchronous chat tools are useful for ""holding virtual office hours, team decision-making, and brainstorming, community building, and dealing with technical issues". Spontaneous feedback can make student feel connected; student will not feel isolated in this situation, meanwhile, student are all actively participate in the discussion tool synchronously, not like asynchronous discussion tool, required student to login frequently to check for update.

But there are still limitations for the synchronous discussion tool. It is difficult to implement synchronous discussion tool compare with asynchronous discussion tool. It is hard to get students online at the same time, and it is difficult in manage large-scale conversation. Lack of reflection time for student and it is demanding for the poor typist. (Branon & Essex, 2001, p. 36)

Synchronous Versus asynchronous online discussion

Educators are commonly agreed the learning outcome of asynchronous online discussion room is better the face-to-face discussion. But the limitations stated above (isolation and frequently participation) discourage them to use this mechanism alone. There lead to the trend of implementing synchronous chat tool, it is because synchronous chat can override those limitation, as it "attempts to emulates" face-to-face discussion. Using synchronous chat not only enhanced social transaction but also improve student learning outcome.

Johnson(2001) suggested the best methodology is combining the synchronous and asynchronous chat tool in Online Learning Environment in order to get "higher levels of student satisfaction and mastery of course requirements than implementation of either mode in isolation". Johnson stated that there is a survey supported student who's used both discussion tools are most likely to achieved the course requirement because using the both tools can maximized "personal engagement in learning".

Review on existing system

Instructor Controlled Chat System(ICCS)

ICCS (Thirunarayanan, 2000) was proposed to let the instructor involve into the student discussion, it can fix the problem with chat confusion and overlap. He proposed two software enhancements in order to achieve the aim:

Instructor mediated chat

Instructors will have two windows on their monitor, one is the student discussion window and the other is the instructor control window. Each message raised from the student will send to the instructor window first before published to the other students, the instructor will choose the relevant question / response to publish. Students are only type and respond to the question until the instructor sends the message to the student window

Instructor hints before the chat section

The second point is to save short comments; questions and statement in the database before the chat session begin. Once the student is lack of idea, the instructor can make use of the pre-saved statements to ask question and remind students to stay focused on relevant topic.

Potential problem of ICCS

As the discussion flow is highly depended to the instructor, it will affect the smoothness of the discussion and make it ineffective.

As the discussion material is censored by the instructor, the quality of the discussion will highly depends on the quality of the instructor

The less attention paid by the learner as they can rely on the instructor comment or instruction.

The workload of the instructor will be increased as there may have many discussion groups in a class.

Mediated chat

The mediated chat (Hugo, Pimentel, & Lucena, 2006) was designed to avoid "Message Overload". According to the authors, message overload refers to many messages from the participants are being display at once. Mediated chat uses the computer mediated channel to solve the problem.

In mediated chat, the student message will first send to the chat server and queue. The chat server will collect all the messages and publish them to the dialog window one by one. The student are able to see a queue list in the window, they are able to see their place in the queue. If their idea are posted by the student in the priority place in the queue, the student are able to delete their submit message and compose a new one to send to the chat server.

Potential problem of Mediated Chat

The system can solve the message overload problem is a pretty effective way, however for the problem of facilitating the effectiveness of the discussion. There are some potential problems in it:

With this method it can lower the burden of the instructor but there are no aids to help student to think critically since they are without the help of the instructor.

As the discussion flow is highly dependent on the chat server, there are no way the quiz or change the place of the queue.

CSCL environment for "Six Thinking hats" Discussion

Tamura, & Shuichi (2007) [iv] proposed a scenario-based asynchronous discussion environment by using the six thinking hat model. In which, the student are put on a specific hat altogether and contribute idea for this colored hat. After the first hat session, a facilitator will move the whole group to the group review section (illustrated in figure5) and it will further move to other hat section onward.

For the "Group review", each student will criticized other learners' statement, and there is a facilitator to control the critic.

Fig5 Scenario-based Process of Discussion

The reason of the priority of the hat color: Red> While> Green> Yellow> Black and Blue is because:

Red Hat: Emotion hat, it is easy for the learner to state his personal opinion even they are not familiar with the six thinking hat method.

White Hat: The hat of fact, It provided the student fundamental information to discuss.

Green hat > Yellow hat > Black hat: These hats used to contribute ideas and standing point to the discussion, it is a good way to put it after the emotion hat and the hat of fact.

Blue hat: Using blue hat as a summarized hat. It is the best way to put it at last.

The summary of the "Six Thinking hats" Discussion

The discussion tool utilizes the six thinking hats model, in which, it provided a platform for parallel thinking. And thus it fulfilled the five advantages we suggested in the last section.

The hat sequence is logical. Which make the red hat at the first, white hat follows and the blue hat at the end.

Tamura, & Shuichi (2006) have examined their model uses questionnaire, they found this system can contribute to the various viewpoint for a given topic and provide the easiness to sum up.

There are some points we can take from this system:

It is a good way to let the student to contribute idea altogether (all student contribute to a hat one by one) at the very beginning. It can force to student to think in different direction at least once. But we believe that it is better to stick one student a particular role after the first cycle. It is because the group may be ignored some minor idea during the later discussion (e.g. feeling). If we stick a student to a particular role after the first cycle. The problem will be fixed. (Details flow will be explained in next chapter)

The system should enable some features to facilitate the student to summarized ideas. Meanwhile, it is also a important point to enable feature to facilitate student to take up their specific role.

Discussion method

Structured Academic Controversy


"Controversy√ā¬†exists when one person's ideas, information, conclusions, theories, and opinions are incompatible with those of another, and the two seek to reach an agreement" (Johnson & Johnson, 1995) SAC is a teaching approach that encourages student to take one side at once and challenge with the other side, student will first divided in two teams, and they are going to argue a topic alternately, they are going to argue the topic BOTH sides of a controversial issue and eventually achieved the agreement on the issue.

Structured Academic Controversy is a teaching approach that encourages students to take on and argue for, alternately, BOTH sides of a controversial issue and ultimately come up with a balanced opinion about that issue. Students work in pairs to become familiar with one

side of an issue, and then debate with another pair who has become familiar with the opposing side. Pairs then switch "sides," become familiar with the opposing argument, and debate again. Finally, the two pairs come together to discuss the strengths and

weakness of each side of the argument, come to a consensus about their collective opinion about the argument, and present that idea to the other quads. This teaching approach encourages students to consider all sides of an issue equally before formulating a final opinion.

Philosophical Chairs Discussion

Six Thinking Hats Model