Talk with Me: Student Pronoun Use as an Indicator of Discourse Health

Krystle Phirangee
Jim Hewitt


Identifying which online behaviours and interactions are associated with students’ perception of being supported will enable a deeper understanding of how those activities contribute to student learning experiences. Features of student language, especially verbally immediate behaviours, are one of the aspects of student interactions in need of greater exploration within discourse-based online learning environments. As a result, the verbally immediate behaviour of pronoun usage is explored within online courses where the primary learning mechanism is student discourse. Student posting behaviours and features of their language, specifically their use of different classes of pronouns, are explored from the perspective of how supported students felt in their courses as well as how their behaviours and pronoun usage changed over time. Findings suggest that students who were taking instructor-facilitated courses felt more supported which was associated with higher levels of interaction and increased consistency in student behaviours from week to week within the term. Those enrolled in peer-facilitated courses, who felt less supported, used pronouns differently than those who experienced greater levels of support, suggesting the potential for pronoun-based analytics.


Online Learning; Temporal Analytics; Learning Analytics; Student Discourse; Academic Vocabulary; Pronouns

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