Why even have discussions?

Grading Rubric               Rating Your Peers

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Here are some guidelines that will help you to make the most of the Discussion Forum in this class

Ask Dr. J:  Think of this as raising your hand in class.  This is for clarification or problems that others might be having, as well.  However, please be conscientious to check the course outline and your email, as well as reading the other "Ask Dr. J" posts before asking questions so as not to duplicate, as that wastes others time to read through and my time to answer.  Also, please don't send the same question through "Ask Dr. J" and email for the same reason.  I do appreciate receiving posts when links are missing, or other errors so I can correct them quickly.  Be aware that you are responsible for any information provided or questions answered through "Ask Dr. J" so be sure to read those posts.


Requirements and deadlines:  You will have a discussion question each week.  You should post an answer to the question by Friday at midnight, but you get more points if you answer the question earlier in the week. Responses to your classmates' posts are due by Sunday at midnight.  Be aware that doing the bare minimum will not earn an "A."


Original Post - this is the answer to the discussion question

To encourage you to post early and therefore have more opportunity for discussion, points will be awarded on the following timeline:

Original post submitted by Tuesday:  10 points

Original post submitted by Wednesday:  9 points

Original post submitted by Thursday:  8 points

Original post submitted by Friday:  7 points

Original post submitted after Friday: 0 points


Note:  if you post on Tuesday and then open that same post on Wednesday to correct something, my report will show that you posted on Wednesday and you will get 9 points.


Response Posts - these are your responses to your classmates' original posts

NOTE:  You should read all posts, original ones and responses, not just the ones to which you intend to respond.  Blackboard logs all activity and I am aware if you only read 2 posts in a discussion.  In addition, please rate all original posts that you read by clicking on the "Review" tab just below it.  You don't have to do this for responses, just original posts.


Answer the question entirely, not just one thought.  Don't just paraphrase something in the lecture or text - do some thinking, reading on your own.  Do not parrot the book back to me.  Use that knowledge and understanding.  Develop some rational reasoning based upon your new knowledge.  Your answer should be like a short essay.  It should not consist of a single point.  It should also not be a simple yes or no answer, even if you put the word "definitely" in front of it.  


In responding to others' answers, feel free to ask them for clarification or for further information to justify their answers.  "I agree" is not a discussion.  Neither is a paraphrase of their post.  You will not receive full credit for responses unless they are at least 3 sentences long.  Your response should add something to the original post.  Feel free to challenge shallow answers and to encourage open thinkers.  Ask questions to encourage others to delve deeper into the subject.  However, posting a question does not in itself constitute new material. Remember that chit chat responses ("I saw you at the movies last night," "my son loves that kind of music," etc.) will not be counted toward the response post requirement.  As a matter of fact, those belong in the Water cooler!

You are welcome to respond to as many posts as you like, but again, with something of substance, not just a "me, too!" answer.  I am suspect of any answer that begins with "I agree . . . "  This is sometimes called "sheeping" 

So, how can you know if you've added new material?  Just ask yourself whether someone else could respond to your response or if you've just summarized the point and ended the thread.


Read everything!  Continue to read the discussion posts, even after the deadline.  When I grade the discussions, the total number of posts is the number I use for grading, whatever that number may be at the time.  In other words, if there are 100 posts on Discussion 1 at the time I grade that discussion, only those who have read all 100 will get full credit, even if there were only 90 posts at the deadline.  Don't think that you have to stay up until midnight on Sunday.  I don't!  I usually begin grading discussions on Monday afternoon.


Please write in complete sentences and use correct punctuation, capitalization and sentence structure.  We do become accustomed to shorthand in e-mails and text messages, but you should be able to do it the other way also, and this is a good forum in which to practice.  Part of your grade will be based upon your ability to communicate your understanding of the subject, both professionally and effectively, so think of the discussion forum as a writing assignment that will be graded both on content and form.  It's a good idea to write your posts in a Word document with spell-check and grammar-check turned on and then copy and paste the post into the discussion forum.


Please begin your response posts with the person's name to whom you are responding.  Some of the threads go back and forth between people and when read in compiled format, become very confusing.


These submissions are time and date stamped, so don't miss the deadlines.   When I grade your posts in Blackboard, I am looking at only your posts - only your side of the conversation, so keep that in mind when you judge your own participation.


Grading will be as follows: 

The answer to the original question is worth 30 points.  You will also receive more points if you post this answer early.  The reason for that is to encourage the discussion to begin early in the week instead of only on the weekend.  Early postings are worth up to 10 points.  Your responses to others' posts are also worth 30 points.  Peer review ratings are worth 10 points and reading the posts and responses is worth 10 points.  No credit will be given for responses that simply agree or that do not add to the discussion.   Your writing form (spelling, grammar, sentence structure, etc.) is also worth 10 points. I will use the rubric below to calculate your grade each week.


I give very few "Excellent" ratings on original posts.  An "insightful answer" is one not regurgitated from the textbook or an extemporaneous opinion.  It is an answer that expresses critical thinking based upon the knowledge gained from a variety of sources.  Feel free to do a little research on your own, outside the textbook and lectures, to draw in additional material if you would strive toward that "Excellent" rating.  However, do not copy anything from anywhere as I check those sources as well.  In general, to get an "Excellent," you have to prove your point, not just state your opinion.



 DO NOT copy material from some other source and present it as your own in your discussion answer.  The penalty for plagiarism is to fail the class.  I check these answers.  Don't risk it.


Discussion Grading Rubric

Grades for discussion question will be based on the following rubric



Performance Indicators






Original Post Content

No original post

Incomplete answer or incorrect information

Answer applies minimal knowledge of reading material or other valid sources.

Complete answer showing some knowledge of reading material or other valid sources

Insightful answer well supported by reading material and/or other valid sources


0 points

21 points

24 points

27 points

30 points

Original Post Time

Original post submitted late

Original post by Friday

Original post by Thursday

Original post by Wednesday

Original post by Tuesday


0 points

7 points

8 points

9 points

10 points


No responses including “I agree” responses with no new information

One response missing or one response is an “I agree” response with no new information

One or more responses is less than 3 sentences long or responses add little information

2 complete responses that include new information

More than 2 complete responses that include new information


0 points

21 points

24 points

27 points

30 points

Peer Review

No ratings given

1-4 ratings given

5-7 ratings given

8-10 ratings given

More than 10 ratings given


0 points

7 points

8 points

9 points

10 points

 Writing form

Posts unavailable to grade writing form or unacceptable writing form

Multiple errors in punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and sentence form

Several errors in punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and sentence form

Minimal errors in punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and sentence form

Correct punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and sentence form


0 points

14 points

16 points

18 points

20 points


Total points







Rating Your Peers


Part of your grade (see rubric above) is to rate the original posts (not the responses) of your classmates.  At the bottom of each original post, there is a box that says "Rate This Message."  Click the box and then choose the rating (one star to five stars) that you think the post deserves.  Use the following guidelines when rating others' posts:


     5 stars:  exceptional (a grade of 100)

        4 stars:  excellent (a grade in the 90s)

           3 stars:  good (a grade in the 80s)

              2 stars:  needs improvement (a grade in the 70s)

                 1 star:    below standard (a grade in the 60s)



Using the star system above, here are some questions to ask yourself when rating posts:

  1. Did I learn something from this post?

  2. Did the person posting answer the question entirely - all parts answered completely?

  3. Was opinion used properly; in other words, stated as opinion, and not as fact?

  4. Was the answer unduly biased?

  5. Was the post too short, needing more discussion to support the answer or conclusion expressed?

  6. Do you think the student's post was researched and well thought out, or just off the top of his/her head?

  7. Were there too many typos, spelling errors, grammatical mistakes for the post to have been proof-read?


Be sure to assess your classmates honestly and fairly.  If the post is lacking, you should not give it 4 stars.  However, be careful not to downgrade someone who may disagree with you if the post deserves a high rating.  Also, do not get into the rut of giving everyone 3 stars.   These ratings are anonymous to your fellow students, but not to me.  It takes attention to detail and use of critical thinking skills to assess value.  This is also a learning objective in this course.  Take it seriously.


and NOTE:  this is not a Facebook "like"!!  I don't care if you like it or not.  Is it a quality answer??



(from Teaching Professor Blog by Maryellen Weimer, PhD)

Researchers identified four different ways students reported they were using discussion to promote learning.

  • To challenge ideas – both their own and others with the goal of arriving at a more complete understanding

  • To develop ideas – using the ideas of others to improve their own thinking

  • To acquire ideas – using discussion as a way of collecting ideas

  • To check ideas – making sure that their ideas were the right ones; that they were learning the right things


(I particularly like the first two - higher order thinking skills!)






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Created and maintained by Vicky V. Johnson