In online teaching and learning, the importance of the discussion board cannot be overstated. It is in the discussion board that the student interacts with other students and the professor has the opportunity to both monitor the learning experience and to enter into the learning dynamic with questions — questions of the Socratic nature that will hopefully lead the student to deeper learning through self-guided research.
A response should be, of course, much more than, “that was an excellent post.” On the other hand, it’s not the place for harsh critique. I would sum up a discussion board response in this way:
The discussion board response in an online course is a vital component in the total teaching and learning experience. The initial response by a student to the prompt should reveal an understanding of the issues present in the question, with citations, and a demonstration of isolation of the presenting issue, theological reflection, critical thinking, and synthesis (in our case, pastoral application). As a student moves through theological reflection, critical thinking, and synthesis, she supports her assertions with references. In this sense, the student should look upon discussion board responses as academic writing. Avoid only personal reflection. There is a place for personal reflection, and that generally will come in the synthesis statement or paragraph. The response to the prompt should be at least 100 words plus a reference section. A section on references will follow. This bibliography, which will be, usually, only two or three entries, will be necessarily brief and will be composed in the Turabian Style Guide.
In responding to each other or the professor in follow-up questions, the student once again employs academic writing to support assertions. The framework of a peer-to-peer response or student-to-professor response should include the confirmation of the synthesis statements that you are responding to, theological reflection, critical thinking, and synthesis. Answers should be at least 100 words. Because we use Chicago – Turabian, we cannot utilize footnotes in the learning management system (at least at the time of this writing). Therefore, the student must use in-line citations for references. This will look very much like APA citations, which many of you will be familiar with from your undergraduate days, especially those in social sciences). The reference section will be formatted in the Turabian Style Guide (for more information on in-line citations in Turabian, see https://edubirdie.com/turabian-citation-generator). Tip: Remember that Discussion Board Responses follow an acronym, IDEA:
IDENTIFY the presenting issue in the prompt DEFINE AND DISSECT the issue, implications, possibilities EXPLORE AND EXPLAIN the meaning through Theological Reflection ANALYZE and APPLY: Critical Thinking, Synthesis, and Application
How can we keep the mission for God from becoming a program of Man, rather than an authentic way of life in the local church?
While many issues are surrounding this vital question of the mission of God in the world expressed through the local church, a significant concern within this question seems to be the role of pastoral leadership (McKenna and Eckard, 2009, 303).
[Here, the writer identifies the presenting issue; there may be several, but keep it to one.]
How does the pastor publicly and privately express views about the place of missions in the local church (McKenna and Eckard)? Do the pastor and other leaders demonstrate a commitment to the priority of missions? One might also ask if there is a difference in definitions. If the mission is described in different ways, it could very well be that pastoral leaders and the people are talking past each other.
[The student follows the presenting issue with theological reflection on the meaning of the question relative to the subject of missions. For a primer on theological reflection, see Michael Milton, What is Theological Reflection and Critical Thinking, and How do I Use it in a Graduate-level Research Paper? Faith for Living, 2017. https://michaelmilton.org/2017/10/30/what-is-theological-reflection-and-critical-thinking-and-how-do-i-use-it-in-a-graduate-level-research-paper/]
Given the priority that Jesus left the Church concerning His mission and given the reality of diabolical opposition to the coming of the kingdom of God (Rankin and Stetzer, 2010, 10), it is no wonder that missions become either a point of contention or a program for the back burner.
[Here, the student’s theological reflection moves to think critically about consequences, motivations, and the unseen realities that are nevertheless present in the presenting issue.]
The result of this is, of course, a failure, or at least, a second rate effort, in following the command of Jesus given in Matthew 28:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV).
Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998) [The student correctly adds dates to the first use of a historical or subject matter expert. Life dates are not added in subsequent usage.] asserted the priority of missions in every area of life in the church, as Van Gelder demonstrated:
“Central to his understanding of mission is the work of the triune God in calling and sending the church . . . into the world to particulate fully in God’s mission through the Spirit into the world to participate fully in God’s mission within all of creation” (Van Gelder, 2009, 3).
Jesus’s last word should be our first work (Milton, 2001, 1). Given the priority that Jesus places on the mission, recognizing that the mission of God in the world spans from Genesis to Revelation in a single cohesive unfolding of God’s vision, and admitting the possibility for misunderstanding, pastoral leadership must assume that the mission of God in the world will need clarity, conviction, and exemplary leadership (Wright, 2006).
[The student concluded with a synthesis of pastoral application.]
[Note that formatting protocols, e.g., the indentation of the second line, is not available in most learning management systems. Enter or paste the reference in Turabian style, but don’t be concerned about indentation.]
Guder, Darrell L. “Missional Theology for a Missionary Church.”.” Journal for Preachers 22, no. 1 (1998): 3–11.
McKenna, Robert B., and Katrina Eckard. “Evaluating Pastoral Effectiveness: To Measure or Not to Measure.” Pastoral Psychology 58, no. 3 (2009): 303–313.
Milton, Michael A. “His Last Words: Our First Work.” Sermon Central. Last modified October 17, 2001. Accessed June 11, 2020. https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/his-last-words-our-first-work-michael-milton-sermon-on-what-is-evangelism-40096.
Newbigin, Lesslie. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1989.
Gelder, Craig Van. The Missional Church and Leadership Formation: Helping Congregations Develop Leadership Capacity. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2009.
Rankin, Jerry, and Ed Stetzer. Spiritual Warfare and Missions: The Battle for God’s Glory Among the Nations. B&H Publishing Group, 2010.
Wright, Christopher JH. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative Nottingham. London: InterVarsity Press, 2006.
An Infographic of an Online Discussion Board Dashboard
See the rubric for online discussion here. Your grades are determined by adherence to the standard, and as the professor observes the student’s work vs. the stated criteria.
Always check with your professor about his or her preferences. The information provided is for the courses that I teach. I also use this in training fellow faculty in constructing rubrics for online teaching and learning courses.