Instructional Discussions in Online
Education: Practical and
Donald J. Winiecki
Boise State University
It can be argued that discussion is one of the oldest forms of instruction (Gall & Gall, 1990; Larson, 2000). Online education through asynchronous learning networks (ALNs) provides the opportunity for the development of innovations in educational practice. Although instructional discussion is not an innovation, it is an essential component of social learning, communitybased learning, and other practices that are considered valuable features of online education (Harasim, Hiltz, Teles, & Turoff, 1996; McIsaac & Gunawardena, 1996; Romiszowski & Mason, 1996). Thus, it makes sense to research this blend of the old (classroom discussion) and the new (ALNs) with the aim of understanding and improving practice.
They Have a Conversation?
Conversation analysis (CA) is a sociological research perspective that focuses on the construction and acknowledgement of societal practices through conversation (Couper-Kuhlen & Selting, 1996; Hutchby & Wooffitt, 1998; Sacks, 1963; Sacks, Schegloff, & Jefferson, 1978; ten Have, 1999). CA has found that conversation is structured in regular ways (Ford, 1999; Heritage, 1997; Hopper, 1992; Hutchby & Wooffitt, 1998; Sacks, 1963; Sacks et al., 1978; Schegloff, 1972, 1986, 1991; ten Have, 1999; Winiecki, 1999, in press). In other words, a de facto “technology of conversation” appears to exist. Four fundamental components of this putative technology of conversation are turn-taking, overlap, repair, and formulations. Each of these components is described below.