Peer Facilitation Techniques

Here are some examples of different kinds of peer facilitation prompts that can be used for online discussions.  (Obviously these prompts can be used by the instructor as well.)


Example: What is the name of this theory . . .?

Giving Direct Instruction

Example: I think in class we mentioned that . . .

Giving Examples

Example: I was once able to solve this sort of problem once when I . . .


Example: Wow, I’m impressed . . .

Providing cognitive task structuring

Example: You know, the task asks you to do . . .

Asking for cognitive elaborations

 Example: Provide more information here that explains your rationale.

Pushing exploration

Example: You might want to write to professor Smith for . . .

Fostering reflection

Example: Restate again what the scientist did here.

Encouraging articulation

Example: What was the problem-solving process the professor faced here?

Giving general advice

Example: If I was faced with this situation, I would . . .

These examples were adapted from Bonk, Curtis J., and K. A. Kim. “Extending Sociocultural Theory to Adult Learning.” In Smith, M. C.,  and T. Pourchot, eds., Adult Learning and Development: Perspectives from Educational Psychology, pp. 67-88.  Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates, 1998.

Dunlap, “Protocols for Online Discussions”

Dunlap, Joanne C. “Protocols for Online Discussions.” In Lowenthal, Patrick R., et al., The CU Online Handbook, 101-105.

Joanna C. Dunlap outlines 9 different ways in which you can utilize discussion forums in an online course.  Some of formats are designed for asynchronous communication while others are designed for synchronous session.  The 9 ways she addresses are:

  • The Final Post
  • The Last Post
  • Posting the Crux of the Matter
  • Designated Readers
  • Rotating Threads
  • Snowball Threads
  • Jigsaw Threads
  • Chatroom of Voices
  • Chatroom Full of Voices

Dunlap bases these formats on the work of Brookfield and Preskill (Discussion As A Way of Teaching) and McDonald, et al. (The Power of Protocols: An Educator’s Guide to Better Practice).

The chapter is available here:

Some Applications for Chickering and Gamson’s 7 Priciples In the Online Classroom


In 1987, Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson published their classic work entitled “Seven principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.”  A. W. Bangert opined in a 2004 article that “The Seven Principles framework (Chickering and Gamson) offers solid, research guidance for the design and delivery of Internet courses.”

Principle 01: Encourages contacts between students and faculty.

  • Email response policy sets expectations for both student and instructor
  • Electronic office hours
  • Use a variety of communication tools in course (announcements, email, discussion, etc.)
  • Synchronous communication (chat, text, Skype, etc.)
  • Pictures or avatars for faculty and students

Continue reading “Some Applications for Chickering and Gamson’s 7 Priciples In the Online Classroom”

“Development, Implementation, and Evaluation of a Grading Rubric for Online Discussions”


In the appendix, this article has copies of the original rubric and the revised rubric used for online discussions.  Each of them have the following 4 criteria:

  • Quantity
  • Quality
  • Timeliness
  • Communication Proficiency

The descriptions for the various levels of proficiency for each of the criterion are quite good.

Ann M. Sloan and Nikolaos.  “Development, Implementation, and Evaluation of a Grading Rubric for Online Discussions.”  MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, volume 7, number 4 (December 2011).

The full article is available here.


Ng, Cheung, and Hew, “Interaction In Asynchronous Discussion Forums: Peer Facilitation Techniques”

C.S.L. Ng, W. S. Cheumg, and K. F. Hew. “Interaction In Asynchronous Discussion Forums: Peer Facilitation Techniques.” In Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, vol 28 (2012): 280-294.

Abstract: Peer facilitation is proposed as a solution to counter limited interaction in asynchronous online discussions. However, there is a lack of empirical research on online peer facilitation. This study identifies, through cross-case comparison of two graduate-level blended courses attended by Asian Pacific students, the actual peer facilitation techniques that could encourage online interaction. Analyses of interviews and online discussion transcripts suggest that techniques such as ‘showing appreciation’ and ‘considering others’ viewpoints’ encourage online interac- tion. However, instructors intending to incorporate peer-facilitated online discussions should also consider the influence of factors such as the design of the online discussion activity and learners’ cultural background as some participants could consider challenging others’ ideas culturally inappropriate and need to be encouraged through techniques such as ‘general invita- tion to contribute’. Facilitators might also re-consider the use of certain traditionally recom- mended strategies such as directing an online message at specific participants to encourage responses. This study suggests that doing so could sometimes backfire and discourage online contributions.

The article is available here: Peer Facilitation Asynchronous Online Discussion

Conducting Effective Online Discussions

This video is from the University of New South Wales, College of Fine Arts ( Gateway).

Download the supporting PDF file for this episode from the Learning to Teach Online project website.

Discussions are an important component of many forms of online student interaction. For students to benefit from an online discussion, it is important for teachers to generate relevant topics, effectively moderate student activity and participate regularly. This episode will highlight several strategies to help you manage online discussions more effectively, and make them more beneficial for your students.

Toledo, “Does Your Dog Bite?”: Creating Good Questions for Online Discussions

Cheri A. Toledo, “‘Does your dog bite?’ Creating Good Questions for Online Discussions.” In International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, vol. 18, no. 2 (2006): 150-154.

Abstract: One of the challenges of asynchronous online discussions is soliciting student responses that involve critical thinking. Too often students answer one another with “I agree” or “That’s what I think” and the discussion dead ends. By providing students with models of good questioning techniques instructors will see the class discussion take on new depth. This article provides online course facilitators with an approach to questioning that can deepen student interactions in asynchronous discussions.

The article is available here:

Or, here: IJTLHE85