Creating discussions that encourage critical thinking & cultivate authentic online learning – Regardless of whether I’m teaching online or F2F, I aim to develop my students’ ability to distinguish reliable from unreliable information, to recognize relevant patterns in unfamiliar contexts, and to work across cultural and disciplinary boundaries to generate possible solutions (Authentic Learning for the 21st Century).
One of the exercises I use to encourage these learning outcomes is to debate about the subject matter – deliberate on opposing views or multiple perspectives. The basis of these forums is that there is no “right or wrong answer”, but arguments should be validated with references such that students not simply ranting & raving. I also think that discussions need to be provocative. They should make those in the conversation want to respond— to agree, disagree, point out what’s been missed, ask a follow-up question or in some other way state what they think and why. By being provocative, we and our students are prompted to examine our theories & topics deeply, analytically & critically.
I agree that it is also important to remember that summative evaluations must be built into the process – to close the loop but not necessarily to determine the best solution or argument. In the practice of encouraging critical thinking, it is the process (challenging the viewpoint) that is more important than the conclusion.