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Deliberation Thermometers

This document was used by student monitors (not moderators) to rate the performance of groups involved in online Democracy Lab Forums. The document represents an effort to identify some of the at least partially independent dimensions of effective dialogue. Democracy Lab formerly provided online National Issues Forums-style forums for use in high school and college classes.  It was run by Jim Knauer out of Lock Haven University, and then by Regis University’s Institute on the Common Good for a time.

Deliberation Thermometers

by Jim Knauer, Democracy Lab

These new categories are more carefully specified and more demanding at the top end. In some cases they are not independent. For example, a high rating on conversation thread complexity is not possible without a high rating on interpersonal responsiveness.

Interpersonal responsiveness

  1. just taking turns making statements
  2. some posts respond to previous posts
  3. a majority of posts are connected
  4. all posts are connected

Conversation thread complexity (a thread is a series of responsive posts)

  1. no threads involve more than 2 people or three messages
  2. one thread with 3 people or with 4 messages but not both (call it a “short thread”)
  3. more than one short thread
  4. one thread with 3 people with 2 posts each (“complex thread”)
  5. one complex thread and one or more short threads OR one more complex thread (more people and/or more posts each)
  6. two complex threads
  7. multiple complex threads, some more complex

Interest in inquiry (asking specific questions of others; sharing outside information)

  1. No questions asked or outside information shared
  2. Only general questions posed to whole group
  3. One specific question posed to an individual OR one sharing of outside info
  4. Two
  5. Three
  6. many messages include inquiry
  7. most messages include inquiry

Depth of reflection (examination of reasons; consideration of tradeoffs, costs, possible consequences)

  1. Views presented are unsupported; no consideration of tradeoffs, costs, consequences
  2. Reasons are given but the reasons go unexamined
  3. Some reflection
  4. Frequent reflection, some especially probing
  5. Nearly all posts reflective; most deeply probing

Degree of diversity in views

  1. No real disagreements
  2. Only minor disagreements that are passed over
  3. One significant disagreement involving only two participants
  4. Two significant disagreements OR one disagreement with 3 viewpoints
  5. Most participants express identifiably different viewpoints

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