Ways to Assess and Evaluate Your Discussions
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Ways to Assess and Evaluate Your Discussions

  • PDF

Ways to Assess and Evaluate Your Discussions


Online discussions are a great way to build student community, engagement, and learning in a course. Engaging in good discourse is a useful skill for your students to practice and learn. Like any learning goal in your course, students will need a meaningful way to practice and assess their discussion contributions. This resource outlines ways you can assess discussions in your course.

Why Does It Matter?

Grading online discussions can end up being a load on both students and teaching staff. Manually grading discussion posts on a regular basis puts a significant workload on teaching staff. Deciding on how online discussions are graded is also a challenge. Does grading discussion quantity reward students for superficial responses? Is grading for quality of discussion possible when we all define what a good discussion post means differently? 

How Do I Do It?

The good news is that it is possible to assess your class discussions in a way that will be helpful and manageable for both you and your students. Here are some tips and best practices you can use in your classroom, synchronously or asynchronously:

Create a discussion rubric with your students

Your students may come in with different interpretations of what a good discussion is. Building a discussion rubric with your students gets all your students on the same page of what a quality online discussion looks like in your class and builds student accountability.

 

Synchronous

Asynchronous

  • Set aside time in class for your students to come to a consensus about what a quality discussion is -- both in class and online as a discussion post. 

  • You can have your students work in groups or conduct a class-wide discussion.

  • You or your students can document these qualities via a board or with sticky notes these qualities.

  • Group the qualities together into themes.

  • Create a rubric out of this discussion, share it with your students, and reference it when a discussion is going awry. 

  • You can use this rubric to evaluate your online discussions and student participation.  

  • Create a poll or survey where students can submit the qualities of a good discussion post. Give your students enough time to complete this.

  • A polling tool like PollEverywhere works well for this.

  • Group the qualities together into themes.

  • Create a rubric out of this discussion, share it with your students, and reference it when a discussion is going awry. 

  • You can use this rubric to evaluate your online discussion posts.


Ask your students to reflect

Instead of evaluating the actual discussion, you can have your students keep track of what they’ve gleaned your class’ online discussions.

 

Synchronous

Asynchronous

  • At the end or after class, you can ask your students to write a regular “minute paper” reflecting on their reactions to their online class discussions. 

  • Provide guided questions they can answer for their minute paper. For example, you can ask them:

    • What surprised you?

    • What did you agree or disagree with?

    • What questions do you still have?

  • You can ask students to share out or ask them to submit it online.

  • The minute papers can be checked off for participation regularly and can be evaluated together at specific points in your semester (for example, during the middle of the semester and at the end). 

  • Ask your students to submit minute papers after class via an assignment submission or as a discussion post.

  • Provide guided questions they can answer for their minute paper. For example, you can ask them:

  • What surprised you?

  • What did you agree or disagree with?

  • What questions do you still have?

  • The minute papers can be checked off for participation regularly and can be evaluated together at specific points in your semester (for example, during the middle of the semester and at the end). 


Use a discussion post portfolio

A discussion post portfolio gives students the opportunity to select their discussion post contributions for evaluation. This assessment acknowledges an individual will contribute more in some classes or weeks more than others, and that that is okay!

  • At certain points in the semester (for example, during the middle of the semester and at the end), have your students submit 3 of their own best posts/comments on their peers’ posts to you for assessment and grading. 

  • You can pair this discussion with a discussion rubric and ask your students to select their posts based on the discussion rubric the class created at the beginning of the semester. You can then assess the discussion portfolio based off of the discussion rubric.

Supplemental Resources

Instructional Strategies: Discussions—Carnegie Mellon University's Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Effective Practice: Participation Portfolio—University of Maryland, Baltimore County Division of Information Technology

Citations

Comins, D. (2017). Strategies and Techniques for Building Community in Courses, University of California Davis Extension.


Department of Teaching and Learning | Division of Continuing Education
Harvard University