Employing Discursive Analysis to Illuminate Critical Reflection in Asynchronous Threads

Date of Conferral







Deborah Y. Bauder


A number of approaches and methods are being used to assess higher cognition within online threaded discussions, as evidenced by the corpus of scholarship. However, a review of the literature suggests that current strategies relating to asynchronous discourse have tended to focus on cognitive processes that are mostly driven by task-oriented communication, thereby failing to assess the quality of interactions that engender meaning-making and knowledge creation. The first goal of this study was to decompose and interpret examples of threaded conversation exhibiting lexical attributes of higher cognition. The second goal was to identify instances of critical thinking and indicators of deep learning contributing to meaningful reflection within diachronic encounters to develop more effective higher-order thinking strategies within discussions. Discourse analysis theory in conjunction with Garrison's stages of critical thinking was used to examine meaning-making within contexts of social interaction. Archival discussion data were examined from 39 participants derived from 2 online undergraduate courses at a small private university in the southeastern United States. The content analysis qualitative design applied computer-mediated discourse analysis (CMDA) to analyze and classify statements in discussion transcripts according to Garrison's stages of critical thinking. Results indicated a pattern of utterances suggesting in-depth learning, with a smaller sample of stanzas indicating surface-level processing. Results of this study can be used by teachers and course designers to create positive change by purposefully engendering critical reflection, thereby preparing learners for the work of the future necessitating well thought-out approaches to grapple with new problems and situations in new ways.