We all would like to create a classroom environment where productive discussion leads to learning, but how can we set up students for this type of success? Some students are reluctant to speak, while others have no reservations about dominating the conversation. The Discussing Discussions workshop explores the theory and practice of classroom discussions, identifying specific techniques and strategies while discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Harvard Leading Discussions Handbook: This discussion guide was produced by The Derek Bok Center For Teaching and Learning at Harvard University for the graduate Teaching Fellows program. This guide provides an overview of the purpose of discussion in the learning process and practical tools to build productive and diverse discussions among your students. This guide is also used with Dartmouth's Learner Fellows program.
CRTL_Discussion_Worksheets.docx: The Center for Research on Teaching and Learning at the University of Michigan provides these tools for increasing inclusivity in classroom discussions at their workshops. Full of ideas for approaching difficult situations, these worksheets are a great reflection activity.
Peer Review Questions for Discussions: One technique for dealing with the dreaded problem of "participation points" is to ask students to assess each other following a discussion. This rubric can be modified to meet your own needs.
Faculty Focus Discussion Self Assessment: Looking for some great ideas on how to measure what really matters in a discussion? This article encourages student-awareness about the goals of a discussion, which increases student investment in a successful outcome.
Universal Design for Learning Guidelines: The Universal Design for Learning framework asks you to consider multiple means of engagement in a discussion: perhaps you offer participation for either an in-person discussion OR one that happens asynchronously on Canvas.
Discussion Activity Idea: The Popsicle Stick Campfire (can also use Poker Chips)
Objective: Encourage all students to participate while also building empathy among dominant talkers, encouraging thoughtful deliberate contributions.
Steps: Each student receives 3 popsicle sticks at the beginning of a discussion - a green (labeled Go), a yellow (labeled Slow), and a red (labeled Stop). When the student speaks, they throw a popsicle stick into the "campfire" in the middle of the group - first green, then yellow, and finally red. Once a student has thrown their last popsicle stick, they cannot speak again until all students have thrown their sticks and the campfire discussion is blazing hot!
Note: Of course this method can be accomplished without the colors, though some students respond to the go--slow--stop.