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Current Issue Table of Contents | Back Issues

Volume 3 Number 8

Harry & Rosemary Wong remind us that, "An induction program is an organized, sustained, multiyear process with many activities designed to help you succeed...."
Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong How To Start School Successfully
Instant Ideas for Busy Teachers by Barbara Gruber and Sue Gruber Smart Starts for the Best School Year Ever
Promoting Learning by Marv Marshall Use the Language You Want Learned
4 Blocks by Cheryl Sigmon The Perfect Guided Reading Lesson
Ask the School Psychologist by Beth Bruno Matching Programs with Student Needs
Online Classrooms by Leslie Bowman & George París Conway Tips For Facilitating Online Discussions
The Eclectic Teacher by Ginny Hoover Ginny's Back to School List of 10
The Busy Educator's Monthly Five (5 Sites for Busy Educators) by Marjan Glavac Back to School
August Articles
August Regular Features
August Informational Items
Gazette Home Delivery:

About Leslie Bowman...
Leslie Bowman was a K-3 teacher for 15 years; college instructor (freshman comp, business communications, sociology) for 2 years; child abuse/neglect investigator for 2 years; designer/author/instructor Personal Safety and Violence Prevention Workshops (onsite and online) since 1995; country/western line dance instructor since 1999. She received a Graduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning Online from California State University in Dec. 2000 and her M.S.Ed. in June 2001. Leslie is currently designing and instructing online professional development and graduate courses for teachers, college instructors and business trainers.

Portfolio Website: http://elearning.

About George París Conway...
George París Conway has been training others in the use of technology for over two decades. He has a Certificate in Educational Technology Foundations for Teachers as well as a Certificate in Online Teaching and Learning. He also has a California Teaching Credential in Computer Occupations, Computer Applications, Computer Maintenance and Repairs, and Business and Office Operations, Occupations, and Management. He has been teaching bilingual and ESL classes for nearly ten years, and has a Bilingual, Cross-cultural Language and Academic Development Certification in Spanish as well as a Certificate in English Language Development for Academic Purposes.

He received his Master's of Science Degree in Education with an emphasis in Online Teaching & Learning from Cal State Hayward, and he is also completing a second Master's degree in Education in Administration, Curriculum, and Instruction.

Mr. Conway teaches ESL and CIS classes at Imperial Valley College (IVC) and is also involved in online learning at IVC and with other online education providers as well. Recently, the Senior English Language Fellow of the U.S. Department of State recruited Mr. Conway to teach the Media, Technology, and Language Acquisition course in the TEFL Certification program at CETYS Universidad Centro de Idiomas, located in Mexicali, Mexico.

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Online Classrooms


by Leslie Bowman, M.S.Ed.
Educational Consultant
Richmond, VA
E-Learning Innovations

George París Conway, M.S.Ed.
Educator, Instructional Designer and Consultant
Holtville, CA

August 2002 Article Part 2

This is Part 2 of our SALT conference paper and presentation.

Tips For Facilitating Online Discussions

Online discussions, just as discussions in traditional classrooms, often take on a life of their own. Instructors must maintain the flexibility to "go with the flow" as long as the new direction is relevant to the topic or course objectives. This allows students to take control of their own learning because they will talk about what interests them in relation to the lesson content. An added bonus is that they will often go a direction that would never have occurred to the instructor. This happens because students assimilate the new information, append it to their prior knowledge and make it relevant by applying the "constructed" knowledge to their own life experience. By sharing individual knowledge and experience, new knowledge is constructed as students learn from each other. Effective instructors understand that this can occur in any class where diverse people are allowed to explore issues.

Facilitation skills become extremely important as discussions evolve in the OLE. Facilitation does not actually begin with the discussion however; it begins with framing the discussion questions.

Framing questions for online discussions

Interactive communication is vital to learning in the OLE and the first step in facilitating effective learning discussions is designing effective questions. By using Bloom's Taxonomy as well as the Taxonomy of Socratic Questioning as guides, instructors can frame questions so that students are not merely stating facts or opinions but are, instead, critically evaluating their own and their classmates' responses. This, in turn, leads to substantive discussions as the instructor, through skilled facilitation, turns simple topics into issues to be explored, researched and critiqued as students begin to assimilate the information and knowledge into their own experiences and prior knowledge.

Socratic questioning is a method of using questions that provide the opportunity to think critically and creatively so that students are discussing ideas, statements, and issues related to a topic, rather than just taking a cursory look at the topic itself. Students are given the opportunity to express their own thoughts in their own words, as well as the opportunity to explore issues in depth. There are several different kinds of questions used in this method, all of which encourage a deeper, wider exploration of issues. Examples of each of the following types of questions can be found in the Resources.

  • Clarification Questions
  • Questions about Initial Issue
  • Assumption Probes
  • Reason and Evidence Probes
  • Origin or Source Questions
  • Implication or Consequence Questions
  • Viewpoint Questions

Another method that is often used in both direct instruction and also in teaching questioning techniques to students is Bloom's Taxonomy. The following chart has been adapted from Bloom, B.S. (Ed.). (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals: Handbook I, cognitive domain. New York; Toronto: Longmans, Green. It can be found at the Learning Skills Program, University of Victoria:

Table 1


Skills Demonstrated


  • observation and recall of information
  • knowledge of dates, events, places
  • knowledge of major ideas
  • mastery of subject matter
  • Question Cues:
    list, define, tell, describe, identify, show, label, collect, examine, tabulate, quote, name, who, when, where, etc.


  • understanding information
  • grasp meaning
  • translate knowledge into new context
  • interpret facts, compare, contrast
  • order, group, infer causes
  • predict consequences
  • Question Cues:
    summarize, describe, interpret, contrast, predict, associate, distinguish, estimate, differentiate, discuss, extend


  • use information
  • use methods, concepts, theories in new situations
  • solve problems using required skills or knowledge
  • Questions Cues:
    apply, demonstrate, calculate, complete, illustrate, show, solve, examine, modify, relate, change, classify, experiment, discover


  • seeing patterns
  • organization of parts
  • recognition of hidden meanings
  • identification of components
  • Question Cues:
    analyze, separate, order, explain, connect, classify, arrange, divide, compare, select, explain, infer


  • use old ideas to create new ones
  • generalize from given facts
  • relate knowledge from several areas
  • predict, draw conclusions
  • Question Cues:
    combine, integrate, modify, rearrange, substitute, plan, create, design, invent, what if?, compose, formulate, prepare, generalize, rewrite


  • compare and discriminate between ideas
  • assess value of theories, presentations
  • make choices based on reasoned argument
  • verify value of evidence
  • recognize subjectivity
  • Question Cues
    assess, decide, rank, grade, test, measure, recommend, convince, select, judge, explain, discriminate, support, conclude, compare, summarize

These questioning strategies place the emphasis on student understanding rather than on the teacher as the "sage on the stage." The focus is on assimilation and formation of new knowledge with prior knowledge so that students now have their own interpretation based on this new "construction." Watching learners take an issue, assimilate and analyze it, and add more dimensions to it as they discuss and critique each issue is an extraordinary and rewarding learning experience for both student and instructor.

Part 3 in September will answer the question -- I've designed the questions. Now what?

Gazette Articles by Leslie Bowman & George París Conway: