Does Feedback Influence Student Postings to Online Discussions?
Katrina A. Meyer, University of Memphis
Feedback theory proposes that feedback influences the behavior of a system and its parts and that is governed by rules. This exploratory study attempts to test this theory in a graduate-level class on leadership theory. Twelve students were asked to participate in five online discussions, each lasting one week. The questions for each discussion were selected to be provocative and rich, without having any correct answer. At the end of the discussion, students were asked to indicate which posting and poster they felt was “best” or most valuable and why they felt the posting was “best.” There is mixed evidence that the voting influenced subsequent postings; some individuals did improve while others were consistently good or poor posters. Students selected postings that were (in declining frequency of occurrence): thoughtful or thought-provoking, well written or justified, uplifting, presented new information, same as their own opinions, changed me, or complex. These reasons are similar to those of the instructor, although the students’ difficulty in choosing and rationalizing a choice and the frequency at which students chose posts that captured their own thoughts and opinions are of some concern. This study provides some evidence that these graduate students could evaluate their own discussions without the instructor intruding or dictating an evaluation scheme, although this may not be true for other groups of online students.