The Intrusion of the Moderator Turns the Discussion to Uninteresting

In her auto-confrontation, Fatima is quite resolute about her feelings towardswhat she sees as the intrusion of themoderator. She considers Turns 30 and 33 as examples of bad guidance. Turn 30 (Please stop throwing out things without seriously referring to what is written) is totally unacceptable: This is not OK…he was not with us at the beginning, and he can’t tell us such things. She justifies Rim’s

reaction in Turn 31 (We don’t simply throw out). Such an intervention from the part of the moderator does not encourage the continuation of the discussion. She interprets Ahmad’s link to Rim’s contribution in Turn 31 in his contribution (Turn 33:U1what about opening the idea in contribution 11) as away to ask questions on claims thatwere far away and hewants us to return to Turn 11, what’s the link? And Fatima goes on explaining: He has to know that many things happened since then. So, his reaction here [in Turn 30] is not interesting at all and is connected to nothing [Fatima does a gesture of ‘going away’with her hand]. Fatima feels that the rest of the activity of the moderator is even worse as he does not show any interest in her and Rim’s reaction. Her feeling is based on the pace of his contributions in Turns 30, 32, and 33: He didn’t wait for our reactions. Rim reacted but it doesn’t seem that he waits that somebody else reacts, or asks a question anymore. This kind of behavior leads Fatima to stop contributing, yet she kept reading the discussion, which she found to be “not very interesting”: I only read. In the discussion, I read all the contributions and this was not very interesting. Fatima’s feeling ismediated by the fast development of themap (done by the other participants) which conveys for her a lack of consideration from the part of the moderator. Fatima’s interpretation is consistent with her feeling of satisfaction in the first episode, when Ahmad did not intervene. It also fits what she said in her interview about the detrimental role of the teacher in discussions between students. In accordancewith this view, Fatima opts not to react to Turn 30 that she considers as harmful. Rather, she reacts to Turn 27 (What do you think about the saying according to which the student is at the center and the teacher only disturbs in his learning?). She explains this choice by asserting: In that way, he doesn’t say that all what we said before doesn’t matter or is nothing…in some way, he took what we already said and the main issue and assembled them together. He gave us a second question, a question more or less connected to the main question and to what we said before. Fatima’s answer in Turn 35 (The student always at the center, and the parents and the teachers around) is quite laconic of course and unsatisfactory at a university level.

We see then that the divergence of interpretations of this episode was large. We also showed that these divergences were not based on shared understandings as each participant interpreted his/her interventions and (lack of) reactions to them according to divergent beliefs about learning, and the role of the moderator in facilitating learning processes in discussions. We also alluded to the fact that themaintenance of divergences that are not based on shared understanding also relates to the tool used: For example, the fact that contributions are persistent (in contrast with face-to-face communication) led Ahmad to expect commitment to what has been said in the past, even if remote, while Rim and Fatima saw this expectation as unacceptable and even insulting. For some the high pace of interventions of the moderator clearly suggests a lack of consideration towards discussants, but for others, a high commitment and close consideration. The complexity of the display stresses that presence is not a trivial matter and that interlocutors may not be noticed.Wewill return to these points in our general discussion. But let us look at the third episode, the end of the discussion. This episode will complete the picture about the weird kind of maintenance of communication that synchronous discussions may enable.

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