Academic journal article College Student Journal

Constructing Student Knowledge in the Online Classroom: The Effectiveness of Focal Prompts

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Constructing Student Knowledge in the Online Classroom: The Effectiveness of Focal Prompts

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of Andrews' (1980) three Structured Divergent prompt designs. The Playground prompt, Brainstorming prompt, and Focal prompt were implemented in an online course to determine the impact of each prompt design on student knowledge construction. Sixty-five online graduate participants were a part of the study. Students' posts were analyzed using the Interaction Analysis Model (IAM), which categorizes written responses into five levels of knowledge construction: (1) sharing and comparing information, (2) identifying areas of disagreement, (3) negotiating meaning and co-construction of knowledge, (4) evaluation and modification of new schemas that result from co-construction, and (5) reaching and stating agreement and application of co-constructed knowledge. In addition, concept maps were analyzed to measure learning achievement. Descriptive statistics were used to assess both discussion posts and concept maps. Results indicate there are benefits to using the Focal Prompt coupled with concept mapping in the online classroom.

Literature Review

According to Andrews (1980). the form of the question affects the extent of the response within a discussion. Structured Divergent prompts are more productive in discussion than other types of prompts (Andrews, 1980). The Structured Divergent prompts include three specific types of prompts: the Playground prompt, the Brainstorming prompt, and the Focal prompt (Andrews, 1980). The Playground prompt focuses on "a promising sub-aspect of the material." such as a specific aspect of literature, history, or concept being studied (Andrews. 1980, p. 157). This prompt has boundaries in which to discuss, but the boundaries are wide. Andrews (1980) described Brainstorm prompts as those that generate ideas and solutions by encouraging students to discover different connections together, which produces collaboration. The Focal prompt involves a complex controversy with more than one possible solution, which forces students to choose an argument and prepare a supportive rational (Andrews, 1980). The Brainstorming and Focal prompts have proved to be particularly effective in encouraging student learning in the online classroom (Bradley, Thorn, Hayes, & Hay, 2008; Howell, Sutherlin, Akpanudo, James, & Chen, 2014).

Clariana, Wallace, and Godshalk (2009) noted that "understanding and measuring the progress of learning in complex domains is an important issue for instructional designers, instructors, and researchers" (p. 726). Although some assessments, such as essays. do not necessarily measure knowledge construction, concept maps can be used to assess knowledge constructed in response to the discussion board prompt.

Concept mapping is an authentic assessment technique that graphically displays student construction of knowledge of the subject matter by using lines to link relationships between concepts (Clariana & Engelmann. 2013, Clariana & Wallace, 2007; Ritchhart, Turner. & Hadar, 2008; Vacek, 2009). "Concept Maps consist of pairs of concepts joined by link lines with descriptive labels ... that indicate the relationship between pairs of concepts" (Clariana & Engelmann, 2013, p. 425). According to Vacek, (2009), mapping can encourage critical thinking. Clariana and Engelmann (2013) investigated metric centrality to measure knowledge demonstrated in concept maps done before, during, or after problem-solving activities.

This study seeks to determine the effect of Andrews' (1980) three Structured Divergent prompt designs coupled with concept mapping on student knowledge construction in an online graduate course.


Research Questions

The study addressed four research questions.

1. How do three Structured Divergent prompt designs (Playground prompt, Brainstorm prompt, and Focal prompt) influence knowledge construction?

2. How does the Playground prompt design influence knowledge construction? …

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