Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms

Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms

Thoroughly revised and updated, the second edition of the landmark book Discussion as a Way of Teaching shows how to plan, conduct, and assess classroom discussions.

Brookfield and Stephen Preskill suggest exercises for starting discussions, strategies for maintaining their momentum, and ways to elicit diverse views and voices.

This revised edition expands on the original and contains information on adapting discussion methods in online teaching, on using discussion to enhance democratic participation, and on the theoretical foundations for the discussion exercises described in the book.Throughout the book, Brookfield and Preskill clearly show how discussion can enliven classrooms, and they outline practical methods for ensuring that students will come to class prepared to discuss a topic.

Reviews of the Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms

Introduce periods of silence for reflection, every 20 minutes or so of lecturing During this time they can write down the most important points, puzzling assertions and what question they would like to ask most Include alternative perspectives during lectures One way to do this is theatrical, present one perspective on one side of the room, then move to the other side of the room to present the other perspective Have a period of assumption hunting to encourage critical thinking Buzz Groups during lectures Split students up in groups and have them answer these questions What's the most contentious statement you've heard so far in the lecture today? Require critical reading as home-work Critical reading happens when readers (1) make explicit the assumptions authors hold about what constitutes legitimate knowledge and how knowledge comes to be known, (2) take alternative perspectives on the knowledge being offered so that this knowledge comes to be seen as culturally constructed, (3) undertakes positive and negative appraisals of the grounds for and expression of this knowledge, and (4) analyze commonly held ideas for the extent to which they support or oppose varies political ideologies. Asking questions like the examples shown here provides a template for the critical analysis of a text that makes this seem less daunting Epistemological questions To what extent... To what extent does this text challenge or confirm existing ideologies, values and structures GETTING DISCUSSION STARTED Frame the discussion around student questions Either assign questions for home-work for which they must find answers, in which during class the answers are discussed. Or have them come up with questions from the reading and discuss the questions they had from the reading Start wit ha sentence completion exercise Write one the white board part of a sentence like The thing I take issue with most in this reading is... and have the students feel in the blank on a piece of paper, after this everyone can read their answers and discuss them. For topics without personal dimensions, allow people to share their experience in trying to understand the topic at hand Find illustrative quotes Have students read a text and find quotes they like or dislike. Do this for Cognitive warm up Discuss Experiences Have people recall experiences that relate to the topic or if too abstract, for them to share their struggles in trying to understand the material. After this, people can only make comments on what others said, unless asked a question Circular desponse discussion To encourage listening skills, start a circle discussion, each has 3 minutes to speak. Ensuring participation through the hatful of quotes Have a hat full of quotes, people then share their reflection and response to the quote, this can be in whatever order, so the shy persons can go last KEEPING DISCUSSION GOING Ask questions for Evidence How do you know that? Based on our discussion, what do we need to talk about next time to so to better understand? Instructions for the exercise Because listening is such an important part of successful discussion, you are going to engage in an active listening exercise to gain practice in attending closely to another person's message. This means she uses every resource at her disposal to show that her first priority is witnessing and understanding the speaker's words. Body language, eye contact, head nodding, paraphrasing of the speaker's meaning, and echoing the actual words are all part of the active listening process. Maybe I could give 3 minutes or so for the kids to think about what the speakers would like to say. Then I'll pair them together, and they will have to actively listen to the other share their research and then vise-versa LISTENING TO THE SUBJECT Watch an existentialist movie clip, look at a piece of abstract art or a brief surrealist film, something difficult to understand and easy to brush off, have them Recount and paraphrase or discuss recount images, shapes colors and textures. Have everyone discuss, afterwards, consider the meaning HAVE A DESIGNATED LISTENER Whose job is not to produce any ideas of his own, but to carefully listen without thinking of what to say next. Raise questions that help clarify and explain key points. Make this link clear in your comment Use body language (even if slightly exaggerated) to show interest in what different speakers are saying Make a comment indicating that you found another persons idea interesting or useful. Disagree with someone in a respectful and constructive way KEEPING DISCUSSION GOING THROUGH CREATIVE GROUPING Relaxed Buzz Group Students get together simply to discuss the reading, they may discuss difficult or interesting passages, try to draw out the text main points or bring up flaws Structured Buzz Group Students spend 20 minutes to answer a few questions prepared by the instructor. And they must study that topic, students who selected the same topic then meet together to raise question, explore understandings and misunderstandings and discuss what they learned. Each team ask one person to conduct the argument, and the two go at it After this the groups would join up again to draft a rebuttal argument Have a different person present the arguments the following time Afterwards, discuss with each-other, how did it feel to argue against a position you believe in? Conversational Role Playing The Problem Dilemma, or theme poser This person is suppose to think of topics of conversations, what is a problem or dilemma that fits with the theme Reflective Analyst This person keeps a record of the conversation's development, giving every twenty minutes or so a summary that focuses on shared concerns, issues the group is skirting, and emerging common themes. Scrounger The scrounger listens for helpful resources, suggestions and tips that participants have voiced as they discuss how to work through a problem or situation and keeps a record of these ideas that is read out before the session ends Devil Advocate This person listens carefully for any emerging consensus and then formulates and expresses a contrary view. And unchecked, and unchallenged biases related to culture, race, class, or gender that emerge in the conversations and brings them to the group's attention Theme spotter This participant identified themes that arise during the discussion that are left unexplored and that might form a focus for the next session Umpire This person listens for judgmental comments that may be offensive, insulting and demeaning and that contradict ground rules for respectful conversation generated by group members Or he is one who monitors the conversation to make sure everyone talks to each other in a respectful and nonjudgmental manner.

Professors Stephen Brookfield and Stephen Preskill share more an a first name. While a whimsical idea of class discussion includes little more than a provocative question and an open mic, Brookfield and Preskill carefully develop layers of approaches, techniques, and examples for meaningful discussions. Discussion deals with meaningful issues in a meaningful way, one in which group size, cultural and racial diversity, and gender distinctions are valued. In 2005 Brookfield and Preskill added four chapters to the end addressing the development of online education and recent contemporary theoretical positions affecting discussion. Second, the use of detailed examples is a strength of Brookfield and Preskill's book. For example, Brookfield and Preskill write, "Discussion and democracy are inseparable because both have the same root purpose - to nurture and promote human growth" (Kindle location 544). Brookfield and Preskill write in chapter four, "Email allows you to do electronically what was previously accomplished by posting questions on newsprint in class" (Kindle location 1710). Having accounted for a few criticism, I recommend Discussion as a Way of Teaching to college and university professors to read and to practice. Brookfield and Preskill emphasis these themes as critical to healthy class discussion practice. Brookfield and Preskill emphasize the virtue of one to two minutes of silent reflection before students answer, or moments of extended pause while discussion is stymied. Brookfield and Preskill references the CIQ repeatedly throughout the book to show how it influences the students, professor, and class discussion. All three of these themes underscore the value of group discussion for college and university education.

Brookfield's and Stephen Preskill's book Discussion As a Way of Teaching defines discussion as an alternately serious and playful effort by a group of two or more to share views and engage in mutual and reciprocal critique. The authors give four main purposes for open-ended discussions: to achieve more critically formed views of a topic, to enhance self-awareness and self-critique, to appreciate a diversity of opinions, and to act as a catalyst for informing and allowing actions. Getting students to talk can be a bit trickier, but common solutions include providing plenty of pre-reading material, frequently modeling good questioning and critical thinking skills, and finding a way to break through the culture of cool. These two authors suggest teachers having less of a presence; instead, they should just add enough to entice students into doing their own critical thinking. Throughout the main portion of the book, the authors do a good job alternating between specific techniques and activities that facilitate discussions and explanations of how and why these are important. While it may fall outside of the scope of this book, the authors often assume student motivation is present when this is clearly not always the case. Also, the book contains a chapter on the theories that underlie many of the authors' beliefs about discussions.

The first two chapters are more philosophy of classroom discussion than help with teaching through discussion. Chapter 3 focuses on the prep involved in good classroom discussion and has solid information on pre-discussion writing activities.

  • English

  • Education

  • Rating: 3.98
  • Pages: 308
  • Publish Date: August 1st 2005 by Jossey-Bass
  • Isbn10: 0787978086
  • Isbn13: 9780787978082