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.)

Questioning

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 . . .

Praising

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.

Rick W. Burkett runs the John A. Logan College Teaching and Learning Center, teaches history, and heads an educational nonprofit. He publishes blogs on a wide variety of topics, including history, teaching and learning, student success, and teaching online.
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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

Rick W. Burkett runs the John A. Logan College Teaching and Learning Center, teaches history, and heads an educational nonprofit. He publishes blogs on a wide variety of topics, including history, teaching and learning, student success, and teaching online.
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