Practice-Oriented Discussion Structure

It was asked that I provide some concrete examples of the practice-oriented style of discussion guidance, something that was discussed in a previous blog post where Baran and Correia (2009) reported four design paradigms that an instructor used in practice-oriented style facilitation approach. The basic premise of practice-oriented style of discussion guidance is to not have the discussion encompass only the reading, but also provide the student’s own contexts and experiences. For example, the situation below involved students who were all teachers, so the discussion was framed to provide examples from his or her classroom. This can be done in just about any field including ministry, nursing, business, education, public policy, or counseling.

The particular example that Baran and Correia (2009) demonstrate for practice-oriented style have the discussion framed in four sections, including objectives, communication to reach consensus, interactive revision, and creativity. This example was based a facilitator that wished to discuss ‘paradigms in the theory and practice of education and training design’. As such, the instructor discussed in the research by Baran and Correia (2009) created the following questions for this discussion (p. 353-354).

On page 77 (referring students to their reading), the authors thoroughly describe the instrumental process. Can you relate to this design process within your classroom or out (relating the question to the student’s own relevant setting)?

How does the communicative process, or communication in general, effect you as a professional? (Again, taking an important step in the design process and making the students apply to their own settings.)

Interactive Revision
“…products are created through a process of quickly building through a process of quickly building, testing, and revising several prototypes’ (p. 81). The authors mention this paradigm is the most prominent with application to software design. Is this happening within our teaching? Do any of you see yourself as this type of instructor? All of the time or in certain instances? (Here we see the instructor set up a question that again anchors the reading with the students for a good perspective, then applying the issue to their own setting.)

Creation of Product
Artistic designers create and solve problems in their own way. Because of this ‘…designers are likely to focus on some features of design situations while neglecting others’ (p. 82). Do you think this is only true with this type of approach? (This is the finale of applying personal experience to the learning process.)

Now, you are a writer or facilitator who wants to use this methodology in onsite or online environments, or perhaps both. How do you develop it for effective practice in the classroom (virtual or physical)? The most important thing to do is break down the key components of your question. Do not just fling a subjective question out into the abyss and expect this level of interaction unless you have a very seriously motivated bunch – this practice-oriented style is to ensure that a high level of quality interaction and relevance is provided among peers.

We can see that the facilitator in the research study above identified the four crucial pieces for her discussion question that initially sounds rather vague (paradigms in the theory and practice of education and training design). Once she identified the components that were needed for that question, she wrote guiding sub-questions that asks students to make that component relevant to their own practical experience and ground it into the reading.

  1. Start with a subjective question that you have written for an onsite or online discussion.
  2. What are the important pieces you want the students to take from the reading and add with their own practice experience?
  3. Break out 2-4 components of a broader question and ask sub-questions that have students share what their experience contributes.
  4. Do not assume students will get all 2-4 components if presented wholly to them. It is the facilitator’s responsibility to present it one component at a time. This is actually easier in onsite environments because the facilitator can present each component one at a time as he or she sense that the previous component is wrapping it up. This is doable online as well though, if the facilitator posts each component one at a time within the discussion forum as the previous component is getting talked out. It also ensures students stick with the question throughout the week instead of cramming all responses in the last two days!
  5. If you are a writer, be very clear as to the process in the guides so that everybody understands it’s a step by step discussion, and not a holistic question to answer all at once.

There are so many types of discussions, but in the social sciences, this is easily shown to be extremely effective. We must remember that adult learners need the relevance and application of their own setting to really construct their own knowledge, and the discussion must be structured to a certain degree to maximize that guidance.

Baran, E., & Correia, A. (2009). Student-led facilitation strategies in online discussions. Distance Education, 30(3), 339-361. doi:10.1080/01587910903236510

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About Marian

My passion is centered around ensuring effective learning experiences that improve people's lives. Developing a learning mindset is my ultimate goal whether working with academic programs or corporate training; formal or informal learning practices. It is my belief that our potential for agility is limited only by our capacity for learning.