Animal Rights. Discuss two issues/controversies from the same topic. For each of the two issues you plan to work with, determine three reasons for the “yes” side and three reasons for the “no” side.
Discuss two issues/controversies from the same topic. For each of the two issues you plan to work with, determine three reasons for the “yes” side and three reasons for the “no” side. Each reason should be one – and only one – simple sentence.
(Some sections adapted from Davis, 1993; Brookfield and Preskill, 1999)
Discussions can be an excellent strategy for enhancing student motivation, fostering intellectual agility, and encouraging democratic habits. They create opportunities for students to practice and sharpen a number of skills, including the ability to articulate and defend positions, consider different points of view, and enlist and evaluate evidence.
While discussions provide avenues for exploration and discovery, leading a discussion can be anxiety-producing: discussions are, by their nature, unpredictable, and require us as instructors to surrender a certain degree of control over the flow of information. Fortunately, careful planning can help us ensure that discussions are lively without being chaotic and exploratory without losing focus. When planning a discussion, it is helpful to consider not only cognitive, but also social/emotional, and physical factors that can either foster or inhibit the productive exchange of ideas.
For discussions to accomplish something valuable, they must have a purpose. Consider your goals for each discussion. How do the ideas and information to be discussed fit into the course as a whole? What skills, knowledge, perspectives, or sensibilities do you want students to walk away from the discussion with? Your goals for a particular discussion should be consistent with your course objectives and values as an instructor. You might, for example, want students to be able to:
When you can clearly envision the purpose of the discussion, it is easier to formulate stimulating questions and an appropriate strategy for facilitating the discussion. Communicating your objectives to your students, moreover, helps to focus their thinking and motivate participation.
After determining the objectives for your discussion, ask yourself: How will I make sure that students meet these objectives? Plan the discussion out, even if you end up deviating from your plan. Some of the questions to consider when formulating a plan include:
Your answers to these questions will depend on your goals. For example, correcting factual inaccuracies might be critical in some circumstances, less so in others. Digressions may be productive if your primary purpose is to explore connections, and undesirable if the goal of your discussion is more focused.
One of the most important things to consider when formulating a strategy is how to get the discussion jump-started. Davis (1993) and Frederick (1981) provide a number of excellent suggestions.