Part 5: Spring 2017 Labs

64 Canvas Discussion Assessment with Catherine Arnott-Smith — 03.13.2017

The March 13, 2017 Active Teaching Lab explored strategies for promoting and assessing discussions in Canvas. Catherine Arnott-SmithCatherine Arnott-Smith shared her experiences and tips using rubrics for assessing student participation on the discussion board in her large online class.


  • Provide a clearly defined participation rubric so students understand your expectations.
  • Randomly grade students’ discussion participation twice throughout the course term. Provide feedback on the first assessment, but hold the grade on the second assessment to encourage ongoing participation throughout the course.
  • Grading discussions is quicker and easier in Canvas than in D2L.
  • Ideas for quality discussion:
    • require students to synthesize course concepts with supplemental readings;
    • give students agency over what they post about;
    • split large classes into smaller groups for deeper discussion;
    • ask students to identify and summarize favorite posts from peers;
    • assign specific roles to students to ensure breadth in discussion.
  • View the session’s activity sheet for additional support materials.

Active Teaching Labs are held every Friday from 8:45-9:45am (and every other Monday from 12:30pm-1:30pm, see events calendar for dates) in room 120, Middleton Building. Check out the upcoming labs or read the recaps from past labs — or see them all in one place in our new  Active Teaching Lab eJournal ( To stay informed about upcoming Labs, check back to this website or sign up for regular announcements by sending an email to

Watch Catherine’s Story:

Watch the discussion that followed:

Learn how to create, manage, and grade discussions in Canvas:


Active Teaching Lab eJournal Copyright © 2016 by DoIT Academic Technology and the UW-Madison Teaching Academy; Jennifer Hornbaker; John Martin; Julie Johnson; Karin Spader; Margaret Merrill; Margaret Murphy; and Jeffrey Thomas. All Rights Reserved.

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