By Elizabeth Alsop

As an instructor, one of my main participation-related concerns has always been how best to structure in-class and online discussions so that students are interacting meaningfully with each other, rather than directing their comments and participatory energy primarily at me. Something that has worked well for me in the context of both gen ed and upper-level courses has been to ask students  not simply to post to our course blog, but to take turns acting as a “synthesizer” of the day’s posts: basically, to write a post about their classmates’ posts. I call these “meta-posts,” and they serve several goals: to encourage students to critically read and engage with their peers’ ideas; to increase the students’ sense of ownership, as they become an “expert” on the day’s topic; and to incentivize participation by student bloggers, who know that if they don’t complete their work, their classmate can’t do theirs! This assignment was intended for a 300-level World Literature course, but could be adapted for almost any class, or for use with discussion forums instead of blogs.

Elizabeth Alsop is the Assistant Director of the Teaching and Learning Center and the Mellon Humanities Scholar with the CUNY Humanities Alliance.