Friday, June 29, 2007

Beyond debates and conversational roles (Protocols Part 1)

A book that has been very helpful to me when thinking about ways to engage students in discussion is Brookfield, S. D., & Preskill, S. (1999). Discussion as a way of teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. If you (and your students) are tired of debates or being assigned conversational roles (such as devil's advocate), check out this book. Here are a few of the discussion protocols I use and really like.

The Circle of Voices (Brookfield & Preskill, pg. 80)
  1. Pose a question, read a passage, etc. that focuses the discussion.
  2. Ask students to form groups of 4-5.
  3. Allow students a few minutes of quite time to organize their thoughts.
  4. Each student in the group then has 3 minutes of uninterrupted time to respond (this can be done sequentially, or in whatever order, as long as everyone speaks for 3 minutes).
  5. After everyone in the circle has had their 3 minutes, the discussion is opened up with the following ground rule: Students are allowed to talk only about other people’s ideas, not expand on their own ideas (unless asked a direct question).

Circular Response
(Brookfield & Preskill, pg. 81-2)
There are 6 ground rules:
  1. No one may be interrupted while speaking.
  2. No one may speak out of turn in the circle.
  3. Each person is allowed only 3 minutes to speak.
  4. Each person must begin by paraphrasing the comments of the previous discussant.
  5. Each person, in all comments, must strive to show how his or her remarks relate to the comments of the previous discussant.
  6. After each discussant, the floor is open for general reactions (timed or not).

Hatful of Quotes (Brookfield & Preskill, pg. 82-3)
  1. Write/type 5-6 sentences/passages/quotes from the text onto slips of paper (one slip of paper for each student in class).
  2. Put slips of paper in a hat.
  3. Have each student pull a slip of paper from the hat.
  4. Give students a few minutes to organize their thoughts about the quote on the slip of paper.
  5. Each student reads quote and comments on it (timed or not).
Note: What is interesting about this activity is that since there are only 5-6 quotes that students are reacting to, that they get to hear others’ views about the quote they commented on (or will comment on).

Designated Listeners
(Brookfield & Preskill, pg. 96-7)
  1. At some point in the semester, each student takes on the role of the designated listener.
  2. During a discussion, the designated listener does not contribute (except to ask for clarification of someone else’s contribution).
  3. At the end of the discussion, the designated is responsible for summarizing the discussion.

There are additional discussion and groupwork protocols I like that I will share in future blog posts, Parts 2-4. In these future posts on protocols, I will share ideas on how to use them to facilitate asynchronous and synchronous discussions in online courses.

Related posts in this blog:
Discussion ground rules
Don’t jump into discussions
Engaging quieter online students
Small groups reporting out to the large group?
Karma (or inspiration) points for discussion assessment
Structures for asynchronous online discussions (Protocols Part 2)
Structures for synchronous online discussions (Protocols Part 3)
Structures for small groups reporting out to whole group (Protocols Part 4)

1 comment:

Sheri said...

Hi Joni! I'll take a stab at messing up your blog.... Thanks for posting your thoughts, resources and adaptations on the use of discussion protocols.

Now that I have more experience as an on-line learner I can attest that the protocols used were great ways of structuring discussions. I appreciate that often our class was broken into small groups. Having had the experience of being part of larger more unstructured class discussion I can see the value to using protocols so that the topic is discussed in a focused manner and ensuring that all participate.

I'll see if I can find the resources in my library.