A Guide to Educationally Valuable Posts within Online Discussion Forums


Within your courses in the Werklund School of Education’s Community-based B.Ed. program you will be asked to participate in various on-line discussion forums by responding to questions your professors pose and responding to your colleague’s discussion posts. To help you participate in these online discussions, Uzuner’s (2007) distinction between “educationally valuable talk” (EVT) and “educationally less valuable talk” (ELVT) is helpful. The following two charts outline the nature and differences between these two ways of engaging within online discussion forums.

Table 1. Online Conversations and Educationally Valuable Talk (EVT) Indicators (Uzuner, 2007, pp. 403-404)

Indicator Definition Example sentence starters
Exploratory Recognition of some confusion/ curiosity or perplexity as a result of a problem/issue arising out of an experience/course readings; posing a problem and enticing others to take a step deeper into it “I wonder . . .” “I am not sure if what the author suggests   . . .” “In the article X, the author said .   . . This brought up a few questions in my mind.”
Invitational Inviting others to think together, to ponder, to engage by asking questions, requiring information, opinion, or approval “Jane says .   . . What do you think?” “Do you think . . . ?” “The authors suggest . .   . , no?”
Argumentative Expressing reasoning (with analogies, causal, inductive, and/or deductive reasoning, etc.) to trigger discussion “If teachers . . . , then . . .” “Teaching is like . . .” “X is important because . . .”
Critical Challenging or counter-challenging statements/ideas proposed by others OR playing devil’s advocate “I agree that .   . . However, . . .”
Aha moment Expressing discovery (similar to “Aha!” moments or expressions like “I found it!”); directing others’ attention to a newly discovered idea “I did not know that there is a name for XXX. I think XXX is .   . . Has anyone experienced that too?”
Reflective Examination of past events, practices (why/how they happened), or understandings in relation to formal content “I’ve noticed that I had a tendency to . . . After reading X’s article, I’ve learned not to .   . .”
Interpretive Interpretation of formal content through opinions that are supported by relevant examples, facts, or evidence “In my opinion X is . . . Y is a good example of why . . .”
Analytical Interpretation of content through the analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of others’ understanding “The original question was . . . Joe said . . . Mary said . . . As for me . . .”
Informative Providing information from literature and relating it to course content/ topic of discussion “I read an article about X once and the author said   . . . You can find more information about this in .   . .”
Explanatory Chain of connected messages intended to explain/make clear OR statements serving to elaborate on the ideas suggested in previous posts “I want to build on your comment that . . .”
Call for action Assertions that call for action OR statements whereby participants formulate a proposal/decision about how to achieve a certain end based on the insights they gained from the course readings/ discussions “Teachers should/should not . . .” “X must not be forced . . .”

In contrast to EVT, ELVT involves talk “that lacks substance in regards to critical and meaningful engagement with the formal content or ideas that are discussed in the posts of others in an online discussion” (Uzuner, 2007, p. 404). This would include the following examples as outlined in this table:

Table 2. Online Conversations and Educationally Less Valuable Talk (ELVT) Indicators (Uzuner, 2007, p. 405)

Indicator Definition Examples
Affective Short posts that ONLY contain a statement of personal feelings (likes and dislikes) Short posts that ONLY contain appraisal (praising and thanking someone) Questions or comments that add social presence to the discussion but do not contribute new information “I never liked math either”

“Thank you for offering your insights into…”

“I have been to your country once I visited X, Y, Z when I was there”

Judgmental Short posts that ONLY contain brief statements of agreement without elaboration Short posts that ONLY contain brief statements of disagreement without elaboration “Yes, I agree with you . . .” “I do not think so”
Experiential Posts that only contain personal experiences, narratives, descriptions that are not followed by reflection I did the same thing when I was teaching X.” “I did A, B, C. It was fun”
Reproducing some else Repeating/reproducing the ideas mentioned/proposed in the previous posts without elaboration I did the same thing when I was teaching X.” “I did A, B, C. It was fun”
Miscellaneous Opinions that seem to be off topic OR statements regarding technical problems/course logistics I did the same thing when I was teaching X.” “I did A, B, C. It was fun”

Uzuner argues that discussion threads involving educationally valuable talk provides a space where participants have the opportunity to collaboratively engage in critical engagement with the ideas or key concepts that make up the topic of an online discussion. Consequently, I encourage you to use the EVT sentence starters when you are engaging in your online discussions as a way to create a more vibrant and thoughtful learning community.

Good luck!


Uzuner, S. (2007). Educationally valuable talk: A new concept for determining the quality of online conversations. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 3(4), 400- 410.

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