Using Communities and Sharing to Motivate Learners

A Strategy - Commenting to Boost Motivation

One of the strategies that I have been applying this term with my multi-level senior class, is meeting with the students one-on-one and having discussions around the online tracking sheets.  These discussions have been useful for some of the students in terms of motivating the students to stay on task and progress forward.  However, for other students who were falling behind, the process of meeting one-on-one certainly gave them an idea of where they were at (which most of them already knew), but it also left them feeling slightly bewildered as to how long from the final goal post they actually were.  So I decided to try a different strategy ...



... in an attempt to motivate the students into progressing at a faster rate forward with their work, I asked the students to buddy up with someone who was working on the same learning activity.  It didn't matter if they were working on a different task with the learning activity, but preferred to buddy themselves with someone who was working in the same learning activity.

The next step was for students to load up their current task, and explain where they were at with the task.  Their buddy would then comment with feedback and what they could do next, and the student would reply.

The Process - Using a Google+ Community to Comment

The process that students undertook in order to share their work and comment, was essentially the same as quad blogging.  However, posting and sharing in a community, enables the tasks and comments eg. the learning process, to be accessible, to any reader of the community according to the 'category' as opposed to individual learners.  In this instance, most of the tasks were loaded for the 'Conceptual Design' achievement standard.  The real benefit to readers, is that they have access to a wide range of examples of the same task, as well as the comments that buddies had posted to a task.

The Challenge

Students appeared to enjoy the process of commenting on each other's tasks, and receiving feedback on their own tasks.  However, the 'real' challenge, is needing to coach the students on how to post constructive comments that directly relates to the task and task criteria, and would also enable the learners (whose task was being commented on) to progress forward with their task.

Some of the comments were really positive, but didn't necessarily give feedback on 'how' the learner could progress.  Given that the purpose of the strategy was to motivate learners to move forward with the task, if positive comments were able to achieve this, then the exercise was not a fruitless one.  However, the next level, is most definitely to encourage students to comment in a way that enables their partner to progress forward, and giving feedback on what can be done in order to progress forward.

DigiTech Google+ Communities

Student Voice

The following are examples of what students had to say about the process of commenting within a Google+ community.

Kori-Lee - Year 11 DigiTech Student

Found the feedback useful from his partner, in terms of needing to stayed focussed on stick to the deadlines.  [See Comments and Feedback]


Tauhogofulu Haffeiki and Gustavo Pohatu - Year 12 DigiTech Students

Found the feedback useful from his partner, in terms of being given advise on how the use of one of the previous outcomes from another project could be used as one of the conceptual design ideas in his current project.  [See Comments and Feedback]

Filipe Alipate, Cruz Putu-King and Jaydenzel Pitolua - Year 12 and Year 13 DigiTech Students

Found the feedback useful, in terms of reflecting on their own work, reminders of deadlines, and general feedback on tasks. [See Comments and Feedback - Filipe, Cruz, Jaydenzel]

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  1. Thanks for sharing this. I have followed some of these learners' blogs for many years now, so I am interested in your approach. Did you make the connection with what they are expert at? Commenting using the positive, thoughtful (connecting with the content) helpful (feedback, feedforward) framework they have used for 8 years in primary school when commenting on their peers' work? It would be interesting to see how quickly they could transfer their knowledge to a different context.

    1. Yes the students who are experienced at blogging, were able to connect positive, thoughtful and helpful into their blog comments. It is moreso the depth of comments in relation to the task criteria that I need to coach the students on. The hunch I have on this is that the benefit is two-way, with the student whose work is being commented on, receiving constructive, deep and meaningful feedback specific to their task, as well as the student posting the comment who would potentially gain a greater understanding of the task criteria (for their own work) based on the comments they are constructing for their partner. The project instructions, activity and task instructions, and assessment information is all visible to the students. However, I’d like to take another look at the task criteria to ascertain whether it can be refined even more, in order for the students to clearly feedback according to the criteria.

  2. I am a huge believer in the power of group work, feedback between students and discussions between students, so I am so happy you have shared this evidence with us! We think because students talk to each other all day, they would know how to give each other feedback, but those explicit learning types of conversations do need explicit teaching first, so all the best and I look forward to seeing how that next part of this journey goes. Ngā mihi!!!