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This week I decided to explore the work of Richardson a bit more as I found her article in the weekly readings useful and well-articulated.  I found the following article which discusses critical thinking and student preferences in discussion boards.


Richardson, J. C., & Ice, P. (2010). Investigating students’ level of critical thinking across instructional strategies in online discussions. The Internet and Higher Education, 13(1–2), 52–59.

In this article (Richardson & Ice, 2010) explore the effects of  implementing 3 types of discussion threads: Open-ended, case study, and debate.  One class was exposed to one instance of each type.  Measurements included specifically addressed 4 research questions: student preference, relationship of student background to preference, relationship of preference to critical thinking, and levels of critical thinking based on discussion board type.  This was a mixed-methods study with a survey used to collect qualitative and quantitative data for answer questions 1 & 2. Qualitative analysis of discussion posts was conducted to answer questions 3 & 4.  Among other results, students preferred open-ended discussion types, but levels of critical thinking were lower for these as well.  The authors suggest implementing strategies for providing greater familiarity to create increased comfort levels for all discussion board type.

This study addressed several variables.  3 types of discussion boards were analyzed. Critical thinking was measured using the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework operationalized using the Practical Inquiry Model (PIM), composed of 4 levels.  For this reason, multiple statistical analyses were performed.  Additionally, descriptive statistics are presented.  Qualitative data were coded and included both in meaningful narrative and descriptive frequency formats.  All data were clearly presented in a concise useful manner.  This study provides suggestions for future research, but also for practical application of discussion boards in the field.  It is very clearly well-designed and executed.

This research is useful to me for several reasons.  The design could be adapted to study other interventions.  These might be other discussion board types, or other instructional techniques altogether.  I felt this design was described well and reported in meaningful ways. I can definitely envision using a similar design myself, using this as a starting point.  A replication of the study would also be useful.  I am secondly interested in the effectiveness of discussion boards.  They are used extensively at both institutions I work at.  In fact, I am looking at changing the discussion board techniques I use for the upcoming quarter, so this study is uniquely relevant.