Please post your discussion question or questions here. Feel free to respond to people’s questions as a way to get discussion started and to contribute your voice. But first, here are some general guidelines for good discussions and good discussion questions.
Creating Good Discussions:
In-class discussions are collaborative efforts that require everyone’s participation and ideas. Everyone is responsible for the creation of a good learning environment. Constructive roles include people who ask questions, people who summarize, people who refer to material, people who clarify. Non-constructive roles include people who talk to much, people who interrupt or ignore others, people who don’t listen, and people who don’t pay attention.
Class discussions are an opportunity to better understand the texts you have read, their interrelations, the larger questions of the class, etc. They are also an opportunity to learn from your classmates. Active participation means active listening, as well as thoughtful discussion. It is your personal responsibility to help make discussion interesting and useful. Discussion should always be challenging but not infuriating, and each participant should be aware how his/her participation affects other people. If you have any questions or concerns about how a discussion is going, please talk to me, or constructively address the group.
Here are some specifics:
–Be on time. Be prepared. Read the assigned reading and bring the book or readings with you.
–Quote from the book and make references to specific passages. This helps to focus the discussion where it should be – on the text.
–At the center is the subject matter of the text, not personal opinion. Specifics from your own experience may be relevant, but they are relevant only insofar as they better help you understand the readings and the subject of the course.
–Listen attentively to what is said by others and take notes on the general discussion. Taking notes in seminar is even more important, sometimes, than taking notes in lectures.
–Speak in turn and don’t interrupt another person.
–Respond actively to what another has said before you contribute your own thoughts.
–Don’t be afraid to try out ideas. Nobody expects you to have fully-formed ideas when you come to seminar.
–Remember to address the entire seminar, not just the faculty member.
–Avoid name calling or putting others down. If someone says something you disagree with, take a moment to think about why that is so and what the most productive way to proceed will be.
–Be respectful of each person’s culture, race, gender and sexual orientation. Don’t expect that someone will be an expert on a subject simply because of their race, culture, etc.
–Don’t engage in extended arguments. Seminars are for learning and listening, not for winning a debate.
–Don’t engage in side conversations, or any other disruptive behaviors.
We will structure our discussions with questions, which you will either provide me individually or you will write in small groups (I’ll let you know each week). Good discussion questions will go a long way toward making the conversation interesting and useful.
A good way to keep focused on the text is to respond to the following three questions:
–What does the text say? Point to the exact page and paragraph so everyone can read.
–What does the text mean? Explain or interpret the passage in your own words.
–Why is this important? Discuss the passage’s importance to the entire text or program themes.
Categories of useful questions:
–clarification: questions that seek information or clarification of textual issues (plot, language, etc.) or historical context. i.e. “what did the author mean when he/she said….”, “what cultural events were going on at this time that might have influenced the reading or writing of this piece?” “I don’t understand the line on page 10, where it reads….what did other people think?”
–interpretive: questions that seek to understand the author’s goals, the cultural context of a book, or the text’s workings (the relationship between author, narrator, and reader) i.e. “what is so-and-so trying to argue through the story?” “how are the implied author or reader imagined in this story?” “in what ways might different readers have interpreted the story?” “what might the relationship be between the text and its culture?”
–connective: questions that seek to link one author or text to another, or to understand connections between a text and its culture: “how does this story by Author A differ from that other story we read by Author B?”
–expansive: questions that seek to see the larger picture of the question of study
Categories of non-useful questions:
–evaluative: questions that connect with the question of whether one liked the book or not–too expansive: questions that don’t stay grounded in the class, or ask too big of a question to ever answer
Adapted from: http://www.evergreen.edu/advising/seminars.htm