Facilitating Productive, Inclusive Discussions
A common request that I receive is on the topic of class discussions. So, this week I would like to share research on Facilitating Productive, Inclusive Discussions from two sources. The first is a recent article from the Chronicle entitled "How to Hold a Better Class Discussion" by Howard (2019). In this, the author provides several ideas to consider categorized as:
Why Discussion Matters
Strategies to Change Class Discussion Norms
How to Keep Discussions on Track
Participation Grades, Bad Answers & Divisive Topics
In each category, Howard shares several ideas to keep a discussion on track:
Encourage students of varied backgrounds
Slow down dominant talkers
Control the rhythm
Offer frequent Formative Assessments
Make relevant to students’ lives
Shine light on the Muddiest points
The second source is from the University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning & Teaching on "The Research Basis for Inclusive Teaching." Some of the strategies include:
Choose readings that deliberately reflect diversity of contributors; emphasize range of identities & backgrounds.
Avoid unfamiliar references based on backgrounds.
Analyze content of your examples, analogies and humor.
Choose materials with range of student physical abilities and financial resources.
Teach conflicts of the field to incorporate diverse perspectives.
Help students connect prior knowledge to discussions.
Use variety of methods (verbal/written; small/large; seat/board).
Provide verbal and written instructions, which helps processing disabilities and non-native English speakers.
Ask for concrete observations before moving to analytical questions.
Emphasize larger purpose of material and make connections.
Carefully frame outcomes when raising sensitive topics.
Learn and use students’ preferred names as well as how to pronounce them.
Communicate high expectations; belief that ALL students can succeed.
Allow for productive risk and failed events. Make known that struggle is important and not a sign of deficiency.
Avoid making generalizations about student experiences.
Refrain from asking students to speak for social identity group.
Howard, J. (2015). Discussion In the College Classroom: Getting Your Students Engaged and Participating. Wiley.
U-M Center for Research on Learning & Teaching (CRLT) (2015). Adapted from Linse & Weinstein, Shreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, Penn State. http://crlt.umich.edu/node/90467.