For or against grading discussion boards on spelling and grammar?

One of the things going on at IVS these days is an interesting debate on a more universal rubric for grading discussion boards with a focus on Common Core Standards (groan).

Common Core Standards

So what makes a good quality discussion?  Well personally, I tend to focus on content and thought. However,  there are those who, because online learning is a written medium, feel that grammar and spelling rules must be enforced.

Discussion Icon

I cannot in good conscious agree (typo intended).  First, discussion is IMHO intended to be off the cuff and have flow, much the way verbal discussion does in a classroom.  I would not correct my student’s mental spelling if we spoke out loud.  Nor would I address grammar issues unless they led to a misunderstanding of meaning.

  •  For example, does it matter that my students from central Illinois will always say, “this is where we are AT?” The colloquialism aside, I do understand their meaning.  So is it germane to the discussion that at is an improper way to end a sentence.  Should I stifle their explanation in favor of the grammar lesson?

I wouldn’t in a brick-and-mortar verbal environment.  So for myself I also wouldn’t in an online one.  Furthermore there is evidence that typos are natural due to the nuances of the English language and our brains natural interpretation abilities. There is an interesting article on why we miss our own typos so often.  So there is even evidence that in informal thought, mistyping are to be expected-even if you proofread.

An Illusion that Explains Why Typos Are So Hard to Catch.

Now, keep in mind, I am not saying that students should abstain from proper grammar and spelling.  I am saying that I consider discussion boards a form of informal communication and therefore do not wish to apply formal communication rules.  Have mercy on the soul of a student who turned in a paper without proper editing etiquette!

Side note-I have not received a paper in three years, nor do I grade papers, and yet the term persists in my head.  I receive electronic documents all the time, but paper?  That stuff they used to make from trees?  Nay, none of that 🙂

I do certainly apply the rules of mechanics to papers, reports, powerpoints, etc.  I just can’t do it in discussions.

How do you feel?

BTW-I caught a few typos while writing this blog post, but I probably did not catch them all.


Leading Questions

There are more questions than Higgs Bosons in the universe, and according to the people at CERN (congratulations BTW)  there are an awful lot of Higgs Bosons hitching rides on other particles coattails all around this great universe.

I also feel like my students have become too accustomed to Google knowing everything (except how to “Find Chuck Norris“).  Sometimes they fail to recognize the importance of unanswered questions.

For example, I cannot for the life of me identify the author of this quote, but I am loathe to say anonymous, because I think it wasn’t.  Ah!  I even puzzled Google with this misquote.

Science is the process of creating two questions where one was before.

So whomever I am misquoting, a apologize and humble acknowledge such quote as not my own work.

In this case the disruptive technology of web-searches seems to sometimes enhance and sometimes stifle creative thinking.  Don’t get me wrong, I love search engines.  I just feel like my students are ill-prepared for the limitations of the great search  no matter what Bing does to try to guess intuitively what you meant.

So with that in mind I have decided to create a flipped discussion board in my classroom.  Certainly applicable in face-2-face as well, the idea is simple.  Rather than answer my prompt I want students to reply with  another question developed from the original question.  My reasoning is this, we often fail to understand people, communication, world events, science and possibilities because we fail to ask the right question.  Brainstorming is not a new concept, but people too often focus on the solutions.  I want the focus to be the questions.

So, this is my new project for enhancing discussions in my Earth Science course.
Here is an example:Original Prompt: Why is the sky blue?
  • What other color could it be?
  • Does the color tell us more about the sky or the light?
  • What color is the sky on Mars?
  • Where does the light come from?
  • What color was the light before it hit the sky?
  • Why does the sky color change?
  • Does blue mean hot or cold?
Has anyone ever tried this sort of question-storming?  I’d love to hear how/if it worked.