2021 Discussant Resources

As a scholarly association, one of the most important things we do as members is support each other’s scholarship through peer review and feedback. Through the strategic planning process and preparations for the 2021 conference, we realized there are several ways to enhance the conference peer review and feedback process.

To ensure members were providing each other with quality, reliable, and constructive feedback, we focused on two processes of the annual conference: (1) the proposal review process and (2) the discussant process. Both are integral to the learning and careers of members.

As a continuation of resources and webinar we provided during the spring for reviewers, we are excited to offer these resources for ASHE 2021 Discussants:

  1. Presenter Guide (coming soon)

  2. Webinar: Best Practices for a High Quality Discussant Process 

  3. Resources: Best Practices for a High Quality Discussant Process

If you have any questions, about these reviewer resources or about the Discussant role, please contact ASHE 2021 Program Committee Co-Chairs Natasha Croom and Z Nicolazzo or ASHE Director of Conference and Events Sendi Brewster.

Pre-Conference and General Conference Presenter Guide

The guide includes the information for authors, chairs, and discussants to consider when developing presentations for and presenting at the ASHE 2021 General Conference and Pre-Conferences.

Webinar: Best Practices for a High Quality Discussant Process

One important way we uplift ASHE members is by providing valuable feedback through discussants at our annual conference.  In this one-hour webinar, we will clarify the purpose and role of the ASHE discussant. We will share best practices in providing quality and constructive feedback to authors, and giving strong, integrative comments during the ASHE session. 

Three past discussants, Drs. Bridget Turner-Kelly,  Jeni Hart, and Dr. David Pérez will join the webinar to share their perspectives and strategies.  Whether it's your first time serving as a discussant and you want to learn more about the process or you have been discussing for years but want to acquire some new ideas from generous colleagues,  we hope you'll join us. 

Best Practices for a High Quality Discussant Process Resources

Discussants serve a deeply important role in higher education knowledge production and in our ASHE community by supporting the scholarly development of authors and providing important context for ASHE paper sessions. 
The purpose of the discussant role is threefold:

  1. To provide deep and constructive feedback to authors on their papers (some issues shared at the session; more shared privately to authors either before or after the session);
  2. To role-model the provision of constructive feedback—improving reviewing and feedback-giving in our field (this is presented publicly at the session);
  3. To deepen understanding of the area of study by integrating themes across the papers presented and drawing out broader ideas that connect the papers to the state of research in the field (this is presented publicly at the session). 
To support discussants in their process, we make the following recommendations on strong practices that have been used by previous discussants and recommended in the literature.
Important broad considerations for discussants:
  • Use generous thinking (Renn, 2020) in all comments (both private to authors and in public during the session), which asks the critique and feedback to be based in the belief in a positive outcome for the work—what feedback will move this work forward?
  • Be conscious of how your own identities, epistemologies, researcher experiences, understandings, and/or knowledge may shape how you react to the work. Think deeply about the intentions of authors when shaping comments.
  • Be thoughtful about which feedback should be given publicly versus in private to authors
    • Broad, constructive, and reinforcing comments should be shared publicly at the session
    • Details and more extensive feedback should be shared in writing, privately to the author
    • Critiques can be shared both publicly at the session and in writing—but bear in mind how to be constructive and generous with the critiques (see above) 
Strategies for providing deep and constructive feedback to authors (privately):
  • Provide written comments.  Some discussants choose to send these comments prior to the paper session, and others give the written feedback after the session. Either is fine, but we are asking each discussant to provide written comments for each paper.
  • Written comments can be a detailed review embedded throughout the manuscript or in summary comments (similar to what a reviewer might provide)—or, ideally, both.
  • Think like a reviewer appropriate to the form of the paper (e.g. journal article, a policy report, review of the literature). Review the kinds of things that will be reviewed there such as: clear writing and organization, appropriate review of literature and use of theory, appropriate methods, sound analysis and implications.
  • Focus on the author’s intentions: what is the author trying to accomplish with this research?  What are the things the author needs to do to enact that purpose in the paper?
  • What are some unique aspects or strengths of this paper to build on?
  • Suggest possible publication venues for the paper. 
Strategies for role-modeling the provision of constructive feedback (publicly in the session):
  • Use a “sandwich” strategy—start by discussing the paper broadly and how it connects to the state of knowledge in the field, then discuss constructive ways to improve the manuscript, then close with the especially promising aspects of the manuscript.
  • Focus on the big-picture—consider the aspects of the paper to draw out during the session—what are the most important contributions of this manuscript to the literature base?
  • Ensure the critiques are constructive toward publication of the manuscript—this is especially important toward role-modeling good feedback in our field.
Strategies for deepening understanding of the area of study in the paper session
  • Consider what is the state of the research base on this topic in our field and how do the three papers (together) and each individually contribute and build off of what exists?
  • What are the threads that bring the papers together—theoretically, methodologically, paradigmatically, topically, epistemologically, or otherwise? And what makes them distinct?
  • What questions do the papers make you wonder about our field and about the state of research in our field? What questions do the papers leave you with that will move this line of research forward?
  • Consider ways to get the audience involved allowing audience members to discuss their commentary with those nearby.
Suggested Practices to Avoid as a Discussant
  • Critiquing in a way that tears down the research topic or idea making it seem as if that topic is not worthy of study at any time or in any way.
  • Pointing out very specific edits in the public comments (e.g. on page 3 APA style is not used). These should be reserved for private comments to authors in written feedback.
  • Suggesting that the author include your own work (unless it is directly related and you suggest your work along with other related works).
  • Commenting on when you got the papers (if they were late, etc.).
  • Commenting on how disparate the topics of the papers were and disappointment with the session paper alignment (ASHE does its best, please work with what you have).
  • Commenting on what you think the purpose of the paper should be (e.g. suggesting a whole different study) rather than supporting the intentions of the author.
Thank you for doing the deep, substantive, and constructive work necessary to build up both the scholarship and the scholars in the field of higher education through serving as an ASHE discussant.  Do not underestimate the importance of your discussant role in moving a line of work and a scholar forward!  We have provided a list of resources for providing good, critical feedback.

Additional Resources: Click here to download these resources as a PDF