INTRODUCTION:    With strong encouragement by our administration to offer more hybrid/online choices for our students, my department began to convert some of our face-to-face reading and student success courses to hybrid courses.  Creating a community of learners within a hybrid/online course is often difficult.  Using an online Discussion Board, I have found that I can build community while encouraging students to think critically and make connections. One strategy, which I call Timeless Wisdom Online, accomplishes both of these outcomes, by asking students to choose a quotation from a list I provide and to write about it.  While I use this activity in my developmental reading class, this activity can be adapted for use within any discipline by choosing quotations that reflect your subject matter, or by having students submit quotations themselves.  I chose to have students explore quotations about personal responsibility because I wanted my students to think and write about their own role in their academic success.  I spread this activity over seven days, with five days for students to post their original responses to the quotes and an additional two days for student replies.  Total student time on task can range from sixty to ninety minutes over the seven days.

 PURPOSE

  • Help students build community in a hybrid/online course
  • Encourage students to think critically and make connections to specific course concepts and their lives

SUPPLIES

  • Document 1: Timeless Wisdom Discussion Board Assignment  (includes Timeless Wisdom Quotations)
  • Document 2: Grading Rubric
  • Document 3: Examples of Discussion Board Postings and Replies 

 *Documents are appended in Support Materials below. Both can be modified to fit any instructor’s course content and timeline.

SET UP

  • Set up the discussion board in your web-based course, using Document 1.  Set start and end dates.   For example, open at 7:30 a.m. on 10/2/10 – close at 7:30 a.m. on 10/9/10 . 
  • Set up an electronic dropbox for students to submit Part 2 of Document 1.
  • Upload Documents 1 and 2 to where you post your electronic documents for students.  I use the content page. Or, in a face-to-face or hybrid class, you can print Documents 1 and 2 to hand out to your students.
  • Expand the table in Document 2, and print for your use in grading.

DIRECTIONS

1.   Inform the students that there are two parts to this online assignment.  Part 1 is the electronic discussion board, and Part 2 is their Personal Reflection paper that they will dropbox electronically.

2.   Inform students that they have seven days to complete the assignment (Document 1): five days to post their chosen quote and analysis, and two additional days to finish posting their three replies.  Students are required to read ten of their peers’ postings.  Students have three days after the discussion board closes to dropbox their Personal Reflection paper.

3.  Inform students they will be assessed using the Grading Rubric (Document 2). 

4. Model for students good examples of what you expect in their postings and replies. For this purpose, I use Document 3. We read through these examples and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each. Note that the examples present quotations on a different topic (in this case “diversity”) so students will not be tempted to simply copy.

EXPERIENCES

The topic of personal responsibility immediately captured my students’ attention, which led them to jump right into this discussion board.  In the past, it would typically take three days before anyone made their first posting.  This time, seventeen students had posted by day three.  By day five, twenty out of twenty-two students had posted their original response; by day seven, all twenty had replied the required three times.  Overall, the students read an average of 42.75 postings each.  There were eight students who read all eighty-two postings.  In the past, students had typically not read that many postings.  I believe the enthusiasm demonstrated by my students occurred because they were asked to practice their critical thinking skills on a subject they could connect to.  While reading through the student’ postings and reflections, I was impressed with the connections that students made to their lives, as well as how they responded with empathy and support to each other.

OUTCOMES

The first purpose for this activity is to help students build community in a hybrid/online course, and I found this to be the case for most students.  In their personal reflections, many students expressed feeling more connected to their classmates after reading their postings on personal responsibility.  Students also reported that they like reading what their classmates have to say, especially those students who tend to be quieter in class.  For example, one student reflected:

The insights I gained from hearing from other classmates is that not all of them have had an easy journey coming and going to school.  Some of my classmates have really had some stories that touched my heart.  It also made me closer to them without even talking because I know that much more about them, and can understand where they’re coming from a little better.… I began to gain an insight into some of the students I didn’t really know well.…. When I read Mai’s paragraph, I was blown away by the way Mai writes and how Mai’s inner voice became clear as day.  If I had to describe Mai with one word before reading Mai’s paragraph, I would have said timid.  Now I see Mai in a different light….

The second purpose for this activity is to encourage students to think critically and make connections between specific course concepts and their lives through the use of Timeless Wisdom. Students successfully reflected and wrote about personal responsibility and how they view their responsibility in their own academic and daily lives.  This particular class consists of developmental readers who are at a greater risk of not succeeding in college.  The self- disclosure to each other of their personal struggles and fears about their academic life demonstrate how the activity encouraged them to think critically about the complex issue of how they are (or are not) now taking responsibility for their own success.  Below are examples from my students’ postings, preceded by the quotation on which they are reflecting. I did not change any of the students’ spelling or grammar to keep their voices authentic. The first example is from a student who grew up as a child migrant worker.

Quote: “I believe it is prompt accountability for one’s choices, a willing acceptance of responsibility for one’s thoughts, behavior, and actions that make (the soul) powerful.”  Alice Walker  

I chose this one because; only you are responsible for the outcome of one’s choices that we make.  The choices that I have made, have affected me dearly in my life. In some cases, I have let others make choices for me, whether I agreed or not I still went along with them… I have a very strong family that has made big influence on me. They led me to believe I was never good enough for school. My soul was wore down. I thought I was happy, never thinking that what I thought was happiness was misery.   Now, that I have finally have the courage and strength… I decided to come back to school after thirty-three years. I made the choice to fulfill my own dream. There have been many obstacles that have made me wonder if I made the right choice….. it has not been easy for me. I seem like I take one step forward and two back. But still I know I have to take action of myself and put my thoughts together to overcome. So in conclusion I know now that I am accountable of my choices I have to take charge of my responsibilities and actions so that my soul will be more powerful.

Another student posted the following:

Quote: “What the recent research on student learning has concluded is that the more actively students are involved in the learning process and take personal responsibility for their learning outcomes, the greater are the learning results.”    Todd M. Davis & Patricia Hillman Murrell       

I chose this quote because……is such a great reminder of where I had been and where I am now and the difference in my approach to my education. From elementary through High School, I cannot remember putting any effort into learning the material presented in school. … At the end of each school day, I barely did my homework and my books rarely saw the light of day… I never received any scholarships and decided not to go on to college. The stress I felt and the opportunities missed had always haunted me…Pushing myself to be more active while in class and communicate with my teachers and fellow students….

A reply to the above posting:

I also agree with the quote you chose. I was the same way in high school, to me it was all about playing football. I never put 100% into to my school work, I made sure I was passing just so I could still play football. I was offered a football scholarship, but I was unable to bring my grades up. If I would have did it right in the first time, maybe I wouldn’t be where I am now.

Personal Reflection of another student:

The insights that I gained from my classmates from this assignment is to not blame others for wrong doings that you have done, when you take advice from others it’s your choice to go by what they said or not, and it’s my responsibility to do what I am supposed to do in school to be successful in life. This relates to the readings on diversity because daily we blame other for are doings, we judge people, we take advice from people and go by it and when it doesn’t go the way it supposed to we get mad and blame that person but when you look at it, it was your choice.

LESSONS LEARNED

I would definitely use Timeless Wisdom again as a discussion board topic. In my opinion, the quality of the students’ postings on personal responsibility demonstrated critical thinking, as well as building community among this group of learners. For example, one student reflected:

I thought this was a very successful learning process. …whenever I’m, having trouble I will look back at the quotes and it should help me get through my problems.  I gained a lot.  It was interesting to see what everyone else had chosen and what each person had to say about it.  Just seeing each other’s responses helped me a little to get to know them more.

I found that using a discussion board to discuss complex topics allowed students who are self conscious or need more processing time to add meaningfully to the conversation. This is illustrated by the following excerpt from a student reflection paper: 

I’ve been trying my best to speak out in class, but nothing ever comes out…..I mean EVERYONE should speak their minds and share ideas with other people. Let someone teach you something and you can teach them something too. That’s the point in why you should speak out. That’s the idea of learning. By being outspoken, you learn more, the more you learn, the smarter you’ll become, the smarter you are, the chances of you becoming successful go higher.

I will now use this activity in my land classes as a web enhanced activity, in addition to its use in my hybrid courses. 

SOURCE

Timeless Wisdom – Personal Responsibility document is from the On Course I Workshop

SUPPORT MATERIALS

Document 1: Timeless Wisdom Discussion Board Assignment

Online Assignment #6 – Personal Responsibility

This online assignment has two parts: the first part will be your participation in a discussion board, and the second part will be a Personal Reflection paper that you will Dropbox electronically.  You will have 7 days to complete Part One of this assignment, 5 days to submit your first posting and 2 more days to finish your replies to your classmates’ postings.  Once the discussion board closes, you will have 3 additional days to complete Part Two of this assignment. Please read the directions carefully and check them off as you complete them.

Part One: Discussion Board

1. Read all the Timeless Wisdom quotes following these directions.

2. From the list of quotes, choose the quote that most resonated with you. In other words, which quote did you agree with or make a connection to.  If you did not find a quote that made you say “Wow!” you can research and find your own quote about personal responsibility, or you can use a quote on the topic that you already know from your family or culture. If you chose your own quote, you will need to check with me first before posting.

3. Open the Discussion Board entitled Timeless Wisdom.

4. Read all the assignment directions before making your first posting. Remember to proofread and spell-check your work before submitting.

5. In your posting you will need to do the following:

  • Type out your chosen quote, including the author’s name.
  • In a paragraph that follows the paragraph guidelines, state why you chose the quote (which is your claim). Then offer examples/evidence to support your claim (why you chose this quote).  Statements to keep in mind while writing your posting: what personal connections did you make to the quote, what does the quote remind you of, and/or why you think this quote is significant. Finally, remember to finish with a strong conclusion.
  • Submit your posting by 8:00 a.m. Friday morning.

6. Next, read at least 10 of your classmates’ postings.

7. Reply to 3 of your classmates’ postings. Your replies need to be at least 3-4 sentences in length.  Indicate whether you agree, disagree, or made a similar connection to their posting.  All replies must be respectful and well thought out.

8. This discussion board will close at 7:45 a.m. Monday morning.

Part Two: Personal Reflection

This part of the assignment must be typed as a Word document and dropboxed electronically by 8:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. Please answer each of the following questions using the CEC format (claim, evidence, and conclusion).

1. How did this online assignment make you think about personal responsibility and how does it relate to your college success?

2. What insights did you gain from the online discussion with your classmates?

3. How do the Timeless Wisdoms relate to the readings on diversity that we have been processing in class? 

4. How was this assignment of value to you personally and academically?

Timeless Wisdom: PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

1.  Responsibility…is…the ability to fulfill one’s needs, and to do so in a way that does not deprive others of the ability to fulfill their needs. …The teaching of responsibility is the most important task of all higher animals, man most certainly included.           –William Glasser

2.  In our period of time, there is a shift of dominance to a new principle.  The new principle is that you as an individual are the predominant creative force in your life.    –-Robert Fritz

3.  [Y]ou are responsible for the eventual outcome of your life.  You have been given the greatest power in the world—the power to choose.   –-Denis Waitley

4. I believe that we are solely responsible for our choices, and we have to accept the consequences of our every deed, word, and thought throughout our lifetime.    –-Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

5.  What the recent research on student learning has concluded is that the more actively students are involved in the learning process and take personal responsibility for their learning outcomes, the greater are the learning results.    –-Todd M. Davis & Patricia Hillman Murrell

6.  It is now what happens, it is how we react to it.  We are each 100% responsible for all our experiences.    –-Louise Hay

7.  Learning and development indeed progress optimally when there is an active participation from the student to take personal responsibility for his or her own learning and development.    –-Johnmarshall Reeve

8. I believe it is prompt accountability for one’s choices, a willing acceptance of responsibility for one’s thoughts, behavior, and actions that make [the soul] powerful.  -–Alice Walker

9.  Teachers who care accept no excuses.   -–William Glasser

10.  A democratic form of government, a democratic way of life, presupposes free public education over a long period; it presupposes also an education for personal responsibility that too often is neglected.    –-Eleanor Roosevelt

11.  The object of teaching personal responsibility is to have the student substitute for the question “Who’s to blame?” the question “What needs to be done?”    –Nathaniel Branden

12.  Research supports the hypothesized positive relation between internal locus of control and motivation and achievement in school.    –-Paul R. Pintrich & Dale H. Schunk

13.  Personal responsibility is the brick and mortar of power.    –-Shelby Steele

14. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,/But in ourselves that we are underlings.    –-William Shakespeare

15.  Whether I fail or succeed shall be no man’s doing but my own.  I am the force….My choice; my responsibility; win or lose; only I hold the key to my destiny.    –-Elaine Maxwell

 

Document 2: Discussion Board Grading Rubric

Discussion Board Grading Rubric and Checklist

Student Name Original posting 

20 pts

Reply  #1 

5 pts

Reply  #2

5 pts

Reply  #3

5 pts

         
         

 

Original Posting (20 points)

20-18 points – Demonstrated excellent work. Your posting followed all the directions: you included the quote, your original posting included a strong claim, evidence(s), and a conclusion, your reply postings were well thought out and you made reference to the original posting. Finally your posting demonstrated that you proofread and spellchecked your work.

17-16 points – Demonstrated good work. Your posting followed most of the directions: you included the quote, your original posting included a claim, evidence(s), and/or conclusion, your reply postings were well thought out and you made reference to the original posting. Finally your posting demonstrated that you generally proofread and spellchecked your work.

15-14 points – Demonstrated average work. Your posting did not follow all of the directions: you included the quote, but your original posting was lacking in your claim, evidence(s), and/or conclusion, your reply postings were ok but did not interact with the original posting. Finally your posting demonstrated that you need to work on your proofreading and spellchecking.

13-12 points – Demonstrated below average work. Your posting did not follow all of the directions: you may have included the quote, but your original posting was lacking or missing a claim, evidence(s), and/or conclusion, your reply postings were too brief and did not interact with the original posting. Finally your posting demonstrated that you need to work on your proofreading and spellchecking.

11 or below – Demonstrated the need to reread the directions, your posting and replies were lacking or missing the main elements of a claim, evidence(s), and conclusion. There was little evidence of proofreading and spellchecking.

Replies (5 points each)

5 – Excellent response to your classmates’ posting. Your response was well thought out and made reference and/or connections to the person and information they shared in their posting.  Evidence of proofreading was available to me the reader.

4.5 – 4  – Very good response to your classmates’ posting. Your response could have been stronger and made more references and/or connections to the person and information they shared in their posting.  Evidence of proofreading was available to me the reader.

3.5 -3 – Adequate response to your classmates’ posting. Your response needs to be stronger and make references and/or connections to the person and information they shared in their posting.  Evidence of proofreading was weak.

2.5 or below – Your response needs work. Your responses do not make references and/or connections to the person and information they shared in their posting.  Proofreading needs work.  

Document 3: Examples of Discussion Board Postings and Replies 

Example 1

Quotation: What we have to do… is to find a way to celebrate our diversity and debate our differences without fracturing our communities. -Hilary Clinton

Post: I like this quote because it is saying that we should accept that we are all different and be proud that we are. We should be able to speak on what makes us different from one another without being negative or put one another down. I believe that we all have at least a little bit of prejudice in us, but we should never let that be the determining factor on why we should hate or dislike someone. I honesty do feel that if we were all the same life/world would be so dull; different is beautiful. In a lot of ways we are different from each other but at the end of the day we should realize that we all share the same common goals and that is, true happiness, good health, and to love and be loved.

Reply: Very well put I really like what you said. It is so true, We all have are a little prejudice in some way and that’s ok. But when we let the prejudice over rule how we act towards others then that is wrong. We should rule the prejudice in us, not the prejudice in us rule us. At the end of the day we are all human.

Example 2

Quotation: If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. -John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Post: I chose this quote because I related it with Martin Luther King and others who started the civil right movement. Although, they knew that they wouldn’t end the slavery overnight, they started the movement. As Martin Luther King said, he had a dream that one-day people of color will be as equal as other races. What I am trying to say is that those who started the civil right movement have helped to make the world safe for diversity although we still have to work hard on it. Therefore, we shouldn’t work for ourselves only; we have to work to make a better place for diversity to our children and grandchildren because diversity has come a long way but there is a lot remaining to it. For example, we can diminish our difference by using materials, which teach us about diversity- as our textbook and other web sites that we have used for our assignments. If we study about diversity in our school, we can influence people who are close to us such as our family and friends. Therefore, we shouldn’t sit and keep quiet because we thought that we can’t end our differences, but we have to play our role to accelerate the pace of diversity.

Reply: I agree completely with you, we should start to teach our children at an early age about diversity. I have seen many times where families tend to protect their young children from blending in with other children whether it be of color or race. Not knowing that instead of protecting their children, they are hurting them. The world should not be afraid of showing diversity to their young. Diversity is not going to go away, it is here to stay.

Example #3 

Quotation: Men hate each other because they fear each other, and they fear each other because they don’t know each other, and they don’t know each other because they are often separated from each other. -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Post: I choose this quote because I felt as if this explained diversity quite well. The quote forms a complete circle because it starts with diversity and then it talks about how it could be resolved, and then it ends with diversity again. I connected with quote because I see it time and time again. It starts with hating anyone different from you because you don’t know anything about the other person. We don’t know anything about anyone different from us because we choose to not learn, or not know anything about them. It is honestly easier to hate then understand someone else. So instead of resolving this issue, we continue to live in fear and hate. I feel as if this quote is important because it says exactly what the majority is doing and states within the quote what we could do to change it. This quote is exactly true and that is why I choose it.

Reply: I have to actually completely agree with this, and it’s true. Because we don’t know one another we seem to assume that we know one another we seem to assume that we know everything about that one person, but in all reality we don’t know anything.  When we actually stop our day and get to know that person we learn a whole world of differences, and experience totally new things as well.

–LuAnn Wood, Faculty, Reading & Coordinator, Student Success, Century College, MN

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