Chapter 7, will guide faculty in ensuring their questions are at the appropriate cognitive level.
Examples at different cognitive levels are provided in Chapter 8. In a discussion forum, faculty pose
questions or a discussion prompt, and students are required to provide a substantial response. Some
learning management systems provide the option to hide student responses until the student has
posted an initial response. This may be an institutional policy or at the faculty member’s discretion
as a way to avoid the potential of plagiarism or encourage individual reflection on the course
content prior to collaborating with the class. However, it is important to consider if the goal is to
have individual reflection followed by collaborative reflection or to allow students to reflect on other
students’ responses before they begin their own. Faculty may consider having a combination of both
options in the course.
Online discussions replace the interactive discussions that are often a part of face-to-face teaching.
However, as stated previously, the asynchronous nature of online discussions provides the
opportunity for more reflection and the opportunity to address concepts in greater depth through
collaborative learning. It is important to provide clear instructions regarding how to participate in a
way that encourages collaboration. Some suggestions to consider include the following:
Expectations for the initial post, such as cognitive level (analysis, synthesis, application) and length
Number of references to support the discussion and whether they are required only for the initial
post, replies, or both
What is meant by a substantial response and carrying the discussion forward
Number of replies
Any requirements regarding whom to reply to (e.g., some institutions require students to respond to
faculty posts in the discussion)
Will peer responses be hidden until the initial response is posted?
Some faculty or students may refer to discussions as assignments, which we discourage because it
detracts from the collaborative learning. Table 9-4 provides an example of information that can be
provided to students to help explain the difference between collaborative discussions, group work,
and individual assignments.
Facilitating Reflective, Critical, and Analytical Thinking
The ability to facilitate learning and knowledge of how to develop a high-quality online course were
found to be the most important skills for online faculty to develop by researchers Kyong-Jee and
Bonk (2006). In a later study, Arend (2009) looked at how asynchronous discussions influenced
critical thinking among students. The nature of text-based online communication makes it
particularly useful for critical thinking by allowing for more reflective and less spontaneous discourse
(Garrison & Anderson, 2003). Table 9-5 identifies a combination of facilitation skills that Arend
(2009) found in her study and skills we have identified through our experience. We believe these
skills contribute to higher levels of not only critical thinking but also reflective and analytical
Critical thinking is the careful evaluation of information and how to interpret it to make good
judgments. Bandman and Bandman (1994) defined critical thinking as “the rational examination of
ideas, inferences, assumptions, principles, arguments, conclusions, issues, statements, beliefs, and
actions” (p. 5). Analytical thinking is part of critical thinking. It is the step-by-step approach to
breaking down complex problems or processes into their parts to identify causes and patterns.
Reflective thinking involves consideration of the larger context and the meaning and implications of
an experience or action (Kearney-Nunnery, 2020). Reflective thinking also helps develop an attitude
of inquiry, question assumptions, and gain new perspectives for change and improvement.
The Socratic method is valuable for advancing critical and reflective thinking in students through an
application and analysis of information that requires clarity, logical consistency, and self-regulation
(Oyler & Romanelli, 2014). Socratic questioning is purposeful questioning that probes beneath the
surface and helps students to:
Discover the truth of their own thinking.
Develop deeper understanding.
Develop sensitivity to clarity, accuracy, relevance, and depth.
Arrive at judgments through their own reasoning.
Analyze their thinking, including its purpose, assumptions, perceptions, inferences, concepts, and
implications in arriving at judgments through their own reasoning.
Critical thinking and Socratic questioning are connected in that critical thinking involves
metacognition and regulation of one’s own thoughts (Oyler & Romanelli, 2014). Asynchronous
online discussion is one of the most valuable formats for Socratic discourse because it allows for
reflection and ongoing research before responding and allows for multiple learners to reply
simultaneously (Kingsley, 2011). Within an online discussion, responses to Socratic questioning are
shared, with the potential of the class moving through the phases of the inquiry process as discussed
within cognitive presence aspect of the CoI model. Table 9-6 provides some examples of Socratic
questions that can be used in an online discussion.
It is important to maintain a neutral stance. Faculty should not be evaluating discussion posts either
positively or negatively in the discussion forum. Statements like “I agree” from a faculty member will
often close the discussion and prevent students from presenting an opposing view. Corrective
statements or statements of disagreement from faculty may also close the discussion, leaving
students feeling “called out” and preventing them from taking future risks in presenting their
Some faculty, especially when new to online teaching, may feel the need to respond to each student
within a discussion, but this can be disempowering, leading students to only look to faculty rather
than develop a community of learners. It is a delicate balance between quantity and quality to
ensure enough faculty presence (Arend, 2009). Some students may not be used to discussing and
learning from each other when they first start taking online classes. They will need support and
guidance to get used to collaborative discussions. Faculty also need to discern when it is important
to intervene to deflect potential problems but at the same time not interfere with the flow of ideas.
Blatant bias or misinformation may require sensitive intervention on the part of faculty to correct
this for the class while at the same time remaining neutral. Individual feedback may be the most
appropriate place to address such issues. The intent of most online discussions is to have students
think in new ways about the course material. Higher levels of critical, reflective, and analytical
thinking tend to be found when faculty have the skill to know when to participate with purposeful,