This study is an extension of previous research on uniqueness-seeking theory by Snyder & Fromkin, 1980. Li Tang Yu and other researchers wanted to explore how students with different needs for obtaining uniqueness engaged in online classroom discussions and how students would approach, create, handle, and add to the discourse when interacting in these online discussions.
The below explanation helped me understand what “uniqueness seeking needs” meant:
“Because individuals are said to fluctuate between wanting to belong and wanting to stand out and be recognized for their unique contribution to a group, Kreiner, Hollensbe, and Sheep (2006) suggested that one’s need to be unique is likely to affect identity work, which in turn seems essential to the internalization of academic discourse (Duff, 2010)”
This article sheds light on today’s world, especially now during the pandemic, when we are increasingly adopting online contexts for teaching. Computer-mediated discussion (CMD) is a classroom practice many researchers are exploring; here are three unique features of CMD:
(1) the language of CMD is less formal in written language
(2) interactions reflect the fact that they happens “without the benefit of extra-linguistic cues” (p. 4) such as gender and identity
(3) a sense of community is varying in degree in such contexts
Not everyone agrees; Zhang finds that some students can dominate an online forum based on the disadvantages of a particular class, gender, race/ ethnicity. I focalized on this point because this is very true for in-class and online forums. Students who are well-spoken, outgoing, and of a certain race and gender always outshine shy children coming from more reserved families. I remember this year, when we were in school, we were told to select students to take part in a social-emotional seminar. I choose students who weren’t very expressive, over the students who still would benefit from the workshop but were very outspoken. I didn’t want the vocal children to outshine the timid students.
In online classrooms, students project their identities and feel the presence of others, “thus creating communities with norms and conventions, with social presence originating from learners’ interactions” (Gunawardena, 1995). Which is very real, on my google classroom forum, students have become comfortable with communicating with each other. Pointing out my earlier point, even the most modest kids are more comfortable expressing their thoughts online, through jokes and emoticons.
The literature review section is phenomenal. Yu cites about twenty or more researchers but also ties it together beautifully. It is easy to understand and also gives a lot of background information that is vital in understanding her research. I liked her literature review far better than how it was written in Ferenz’s piece. I do think her downfall was not providing many definitions for specific areas of her research.
The research conducted on 13 graduate students (11 women and 2 men). Why is it that every research we read, most participants are always women? Maybe there should be a research study on that. The students were divided into two groups, where they participated in online discussions for two weeks. Yu used a case study approach to collect data. She paired individuals based on how much they contributed to discussions and on their uniqueness seeking needs. The data focused on eight of the 13 participants. Scales and charts were used to collect data.
The data was clear as day, I always assumed doing a case study has to be difficult, combining both quantitative and qualitative data, but Yu presented it well.
This research made me think about my students while they are participating in online classes due to the pandemic. It’s an unusual shift; the students who are usually outgoing and talkative have just been submitting work without any communication. On the other hand, the students who would never converse in class are participating more in the online discussion forums. Most of my non-vocal kids are also non-native speakers, so it’s interesting to see their levels of uniqueness- seeking needs. But what causes such a shift? It also makes me wonder if you, Dr. Nelson, have seen a change through our online classes?
Besides discourse, this topic made me think about social media. We all present ourselves on social media according to how we want people to view us. In a sense, we want to be different, and we want to use that difference to get fame, free things, money. It’s the people who have a higher level of uniqueness seeking who are really excelling on social media platforms.
The best part of reading many research topics is learning existing theories and applying them to my own experiences.
Yu, et als. “When Students Want to Stand Out: Discourse Moves in Online Classroom Discussion that Reflect Students’ Needs for Distinctiveness.” Computers in Human Behavior 58 (2016): 1-11.