Date of Award

2011

Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Literacy Education

Advisor

Julie Cheville

Second Committee Member

Richard Ackerman

Third Committee Member

Susan Bennett-Armistead

Abstract

While agreement exists that computer-mediated communication (CMC) should support rich discussion, research has not yet established how or if such discussion can be realized. The problem is that users often do not attend effectively to others’ entries. The main question guiding this case study was the following: How does an introduction to the design elements of Moodle Forum in a twelfth-grade English classroom influence participants’ threaded discussion? Drawing upon CMC research, this investigation documented the impact of a 15-week instructional intervention designed to increase users’ explicit reference to peers’ entries in Moodle Forum discussion. Participants included twenty students in two sections of a twelfth-grade English class. Using a gradual release model, the instructional intervention introduced students to strategies for achieving compositional significance (i.e., explicit reference to another’s entry in one’s own) and convergence (i.e., explicit reference to multiple entries in one’s own). Sources of evidence included online discussion transcripts, semi-structured interviews, observational fieldnotes, and other documentary data. Descriptive analytic codes were generated both deductively and inductively and achieved inter-reader reliability. From salient codes applied to the data set, three key findings emerged. First, following instruction, participants employed strategies that resulted in entries evidencing compositional significance. As a result, their online entries were lengthier and more substantive. Second, discussion topics that invited contention proved crucial to compositional significance. Third, instruction aimed at supporting convergence in participants’ online entries was mitigated by the design of Moodle Forum and by instructional limitations. This study offers researchers and practitioners an instructional framework for assisting students to achieve compositional significance in online literature discussions. Among its implications is the need for technological and instructional refinements if users are to achieve convergence in online discussion.

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