So I’m in two classes this semester that require me to post to a CMS-style discussion board. One class requires that I post 3 “items” a week; the other asks that students answer a specific question every two weeks. For the class that requires 3 postings, we’ve been told that it’s really a “space for students” that the professor won’t engage in or really even look at much, if at all – although participation apparently does make up a part of our grade. On the face of it, that sounds pretty good, right? “A space for students,” how pedagogically sound, how constructivist even! A place for students to explore their own knowledge, to collaborate with others!
Needless to say, I haven’t posted often to that board, and I’ll tell you the reason that occured to me this morning. Each week, in addition to the discussion assignment, we’re assigned to read 4 lengthy, often dense, articles, and write a short paper on the reading in the form of a research proposal. And I have 3 other classes to prepare for as well, on top of all of the other things that this way overcommitted grad student has gotten herself into. But I’ll tell ya what. I think the biggest reason that I’m not posting isn’t the time committment in and of itself; it’s that in the context of this classroom, books and lectures are still seen as the primary, most important mode of learning, as evidenced by the proportion of time spent on that as opposed to discussion (online or offline). Learning in this mode is a solitary endeavor, all too familiar from years and years of learning from books and lectures. If this prof really wanted us to spend time on the discussion board, I think 2 things would have to change: 1) he’d have to balance it out with the other assignments in terms of time, which would entail 2) valuing the discussion board component and collaborative knowledge building as much as the books and lecture component. And there’s the issue, of course; belief structures a devil to change. I know this is pretty much old hat to a lot of people – well, duh, Sarah! I hear the 3 people who read this blog saying – but it’s enlightening when these themes connect to personal experience. Really drives it home, like Ortiz for the Red Sox last night. (sorry, couldn’t help it. Go Sox!)