Graded Student Discussions, take 2

Posted: November 6, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

So, I’ve been thinking about my graded student discussions. After our first discussion and reflection, I planned a second discussion and tweaked the format a bit.

If you will recall, in the first discussion I gave the topic to be discussed the night before, set up the big table, made a chart to take notes, and did not engage in the conversation.

This time, I thought about each student and what he or she needed to work on for a next step. I created 5 roles for this second time around.

  • Major participant: please come ready to be a major voice in the discussion. This does not mean that you have to have “the right answers.” It means you have some ideas to throw out there, some passages or examples to share, even some questions you think should be explored. Come ready to say a lot.
  • Restate and Extend: your job in the discussion will be to build off of the ideas of others. Anytime you speak you must first restate (briefly) what another person has said and extend that idea. In addition, your goal is to have a slightly different opinion at the end of the discussion than you had at the beginning.
  • Connector: your job is to listen and hear the ideas that either go together or are opposing viewpoints. When you notice this, you should share this connection and ask if your connection is something the group can agree on or if the difference you have noticed is significant, etc. You are looking for the big ideas and the building blocks to get there.
  • Inviter: your job is to listen for what is not being left out. Is there a part of the book that is being overlooked? Is all the conversation around one idea? If so, please invite the group to change course, or look in a new direction. Please come with some ideas that are a bit out of the box that you can throw out there when necessary.

I assigned ‘major participant’ to students who did not join in enough last time, pretty obvious. The restate and extend folks were people who had a lot to say, but tended to say their idea and leave the discussion. The goal for these students was to force them to say what others said, thus forcing them to engage in more of a discussion rather than serial monologues. The connectors were ready to see the bigger picture and needed the challenge. In some ways they were leader voice in that when I lead the conversation, I point out the similarities and intersections between and among ideas. The inviter was a wildcard. There was only one person assigned to this job. This student made some really interesting connections last time, so I thought I would give this part of the traditional teacher role to this student.

The students did a good job nodding to their particular roles, some more so than others. Again, it was a great discussion. I wrapped it up with a few summary statements after about 25 or so minutes when it seemed the topic was pretty well played out. This time I kept track of participation and “job completion”. Here’s what my notes look like.


Conversation 2 notes

Again, I asked the students to reflect on their performance. Here are some of my favorite comments:

  • Talked a lot more this time and went off on other points.
    • My take :good improvement a student who contributed single, independent ideas last time.
  • I wasn’t as stubborn this time and I think I added more even thought I spoke a little less.
    • My take: VICTORY!
  • It was harder to be a connector, but I did my best.
    • My take: yes, connecting different and potentially divergent ideas is harder, and this student is ready to do that. I appreciate the struggle and recognition of the work it takes.
  • I think I was able to invite new ideas and move the conversation along well.
    • My take: Very true. This student did a great job brining up related ideas that needed a champion.
  • Brought ideas to the discussion, just had trouble with all the other participants trying to speak at the same time.
    • My take: yup, it’s hard for those who are quiet. I noted that this student came ready with notes and pages for reference.
  • I think that I did a lot better this time…and I respected peoples’ opinions.
    • My take: this is a big deal for this student to respect the opinions of others.

Once again, a big success. These are lively discussions that let us talk about big ideas, but at the same time use textual support. Because I do not participate, there is no looking to me to approve comments; students must take on that role. And, because I am not trying to keep conversation going, connect ideas, write on the board, etc, etc, I love just getting to sit back and listen and take notes, but I also get to watch body language, attention, group dynamic. Not only to I learn a lot by watching, but it takes me down off whatever stage I may or may not be on. (I’m really not a fan of being sage on the stage anyway, but sometimes just by being the one standing up, that’s what happens.)

I think they are proud of themselves. They should be.

We have another conversation planned for next week on Logicomix.

  1. LisaC says:

    Sounds like a really engaging class. I think that by scaffolding the roles, you allowed for a much more productive, student-directed discussion. Intervening beforehand is, in my experience, often much more effective than waiting for a problem and then intervening. The tricky part is anticipating the appropriate level of proactive direction/organization, which you clearly found here.

  2. olivemom says:

    These roles are so much more interesting and useful and actually instructive to the students than those standard group “jobs” they always gave us in high school (recorder, reporter, blah blah blah). Love it and am going to share.

    • mseiteljorg says:

      I thought they might find the names silly, but no one said anything. I have a new plan for the next discussion. I may have 2 discussions. One for the quiet folks and one for the talkers. For the talkers I may tell them that I am keeping track of connecting, restating, extending rather than just commenting.

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