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The language of tutor group forums

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 24 Nov 2011, 12:16

There has been some discussion amongst the E852 tutors about the nature of the tutor group forums and, in particular, how formal and academic the language should be.  It is a complex question and it perhaps relates to the relative importance of different aims for the forums.

One of the aims is for the students to interact and this would seem to suggest that the language should be relatively informal.  Encouragement of interaction would perhaps tend to focus on frequent and relatively unreflective posting.

Another aim would be for students to explore ideas on the course.  This might suggest a more academic style as students refer to experience as well as what they have been reading.

Another important aim might be for the students to rehearse the kinds of ideas and the language needed for their later work.  This might tend to suggest that students should post in a relatively academic way.

I would think that it might be appropriate for the students to use a variety of different voices as they post but would be interested in what others think.


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Interesting ideas, Patrick. As a student using the TGF I wasn't sure at first how formal/informal my tone should be. From a purely personal point of view I've experienced a growth in confidence in sharing my thoughts through the forum, which must in part come from interacting with the other students, getting to know them better and realising that like me other people have emerging and tentative ideas. I haven't and won't be analysing my own posts - but I suspect a more informal tone has emerged of the course of the activity. Without speaking for the other students, I think we are all aware of the 'rules of engagement' - we are not just learning from each other and with each other, but demonstrating to you our engagement with the course materials, links we are making to our own practice and a synthesising of ideas we have encountered in our previous studies. This shows just how challenging the forum as a student, as it requires a degree of formality because of the purpose of the task, even though the learning context is fairly informal.

Rachel smile

Patrick Andrews

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Thanks very much for your interesting comments, Rachel and I will be reflecting on them.

I think that your comment on the forum

purpose + audience=form and style

is very relevant here.  The audience is reasonably clear (fellow students and tutor) but the purpose is perhaps less clear or more varied.  I would have thought it is a combination of the following (can you or anyone else think of more?)

- a chance to communicate with colleagues (affective factors)

- a chance to think aloud

- a chance to practise/rehearse some of the arguments to be used in later assessed work

The first purpose might tend to lead to an informal style whereas the final might one necessitate a more formal and academic style.

It is interesting that you think you are demonstrating something to me as this is not a purpose I think of very much although the fact that parts of the assignment require you to give screenshots of some postings suggest that it is something you are justified in considering.

I think one of the main purposes is for students to engage with the issues and share their understandings.  Ideally there should be some exploratory discussion here. I always assume that it could be valuable for students to try out ideas that might later seem naive here as it should be part of the learning.  By the time they write the assignment, the more simplistic ideas should have been developed or rejected as a result of the interaction.

I have taken part in similar forums in the past and notice that I post frequently and briefly.  However, some of your colleagues tend to post long posts relatively infrequently. I wonder what this reflects.  Perhaps they are writing more considered posts rather than thinking aloud.  It could also just be the result of when students have time to post.

I would be very interested in further comments.