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FW: Keeping Discussion Going Though Questioning, Listening, and Responding

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  • Lewine, Mark
    I thought this was a good piece for almost any level of adult learner, young to senior. The question remains, what conditions inhibit dialogue and what
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 28, 2006
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      I thought this was a good piece for almost any level of adult learner,
      young to senior.


      "The question remains, what conditions inhibit dialogue and what
      measures can be taken to overcome them? This chapter and the next will
      focus on a variety of ways to make discussion a process of continuous
      discovery and mutual enlightenment. Getting students to view problems
      more critically and creatively helps keep discussion fresh. How teachers
      maintain the pace of the discussion, how they use questioning and
      listening to engage students in probing subject matter, and how they
      group students for instruction all affect how the discussion proceeds
      and how motivated the students are to participate in similar discussions
      in the future."



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      Folks:



      The posting below looks at how to promote effective discussions in class
      through questioning. It is from Chapter Five, Keeping Discussion Going
      Though Questioning, Listening, and Responding, in the book Discussion as
      a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms, by
      Stephen D. Brookfield and Stephen Preskill. Published by Jossey-Bass. A
      Wiley Imprint 989 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103-1741[
      www,josseybass.com]. Copyright (c) 1999, 2005 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
      All Rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.



      Regards,



      Rick Reis

      reis@...

      UP NEXT: Preparing Future Faculty and Multiple Forms of Scholarship





      Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning





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      1,887 words

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      Keeping Discussion Going Though Questioning,
      Listening, and Responding



      We emphasize throughout this book that democratic discussion is open and
      fluid, building on the diverse experiences and interpretations of its
      participants. Although teachers have some responsibility for guiding the
      discussion, no one person controls its direction entirely.

      Consequently, good discussions are unpredictable and surprising. They
      reveal things about the discussants and the topic under examination that
      are illuminating and eye-opening. At the same time, however, because
      democratic discussions have a life of their own, they can falter and
      even expire quite unexpectedly.



      Even when discussions gets off to a good start and seem to have
      momentum, a variety of circumstances can intervene to bring group talk
      to a grinding halt. Sometime the teacher or one or two students assume
      too dominant a role.

      Sometimes the question or issue to be discussed just isn't controversial
      enough. Often the pace seems too slow, or the process for exploring the
      question lacks variety. In other cases, the students may not be ready to
      explore a topic in a large group setting or for some reason have lost
      their enthusiasm for the subject. Although it is frequently difficult to
      pinpoint the reasons why attention is wandering or commitment to the
      subject is waning, action needs to be taken to reinvigorate the
      conversation when these things happen. Part of the secret of dealing
      with these situations lies in refusing to panic or to berate oneself for
      allowing things to get off track.

      Fortunately, it is often possible to revive discussion and regain the
      sense of "controlled spontaneity" (Welty, 1989, p.47) characteristic of
      good conversation.



      This is not to say, however, that we regard discussion as a panacea for
      tuning bored, disinterested, or hostile students into enthusiastic
      advocates for learning. Neither do we believe that simply talking about
      problems leads inevitably to students' deciding to take action to
      address pressing social concerns. As we argued in Chapters One and Two,
      discussions, in general tend to increase motivation, promote engagement
      with difficult material, and give people appreciation for what they can
      learn from one another and for what can be accomplished as a group. But
      we want to acknowledge that we have both been responsible for classes
      where discussion failed miserably, inducing boredom, resentment, and
      confusion. We have no magic formula to guarantee success, just some
      ideas that have proved useful to rejuvenate conversations that seem to
      be stuck.



      Sometimes a discussion can be considered successful even if the original
      intentions of the leader go unrealized. When participants learn that a
      problem is more complex than they had thought or when their appreciation
      for existing differences is deepened, these can be counted as
      significant accomplishments, even though they might be different from
      the teacher's anticipated outcomes. We can say unequivocally, however,
      that discussion fails when participants avoid similar dialogical
      encounters in the future or when they lose interest in the topics under
      consideration.

      If part of the point is to keep conversation going, to stimulate people
      to keep talking in the future, then discussion that inhibit this desire
      must be regarded as counterproductive and miseducational.



      The question remains, what conditions inhibit dialogue and what measures
      can be taken to overcome them? This chapter and the next will focus on a
      variety of ways to make discussion a process of continuous discovery and
      mutual enlightenment. Getting students to view problems more critically
      and creatively helps keep discussion fresh. How teachers maintain the
      pace of the discussion, how they use questioning and listening to engage
      students in probing subject matter, and how they group students for
      instruction all affect how the discussion proceeds and how motivated the
      students are to participate in similar discussions in the future.



      Questioning



      To reiterate, an important focus of democratic discussion should be on
      getting as many people as possible deeply engaged in the conversation.

      Whatever the teacher says and does should facilitate and promote this
      level of engagement.

      As a number of commentators have pointed out, at the heart of sustaining
      an emerging discussion are the skills of questioning, listening, and
      responding (Christensen, 1991a, 1991b, Jacobson, 1984; Welty, 19898). Of
      the three learning to question takes the most practice and skill
      (Freire, 1993; Bateman, 1990). Although it is certainly true that the
      kinds of questions one asks to begin a discussion set an important tone,
      it is equally true that subsequent questions asked by both the teacher
      and the students can provide a powerful impetus for sustaining
      discussion. Indeed, as Palmer (1998) has noted, how we ask questions can
      make the difference between a discussion that goes nowhere and one that
      turns into a "complex communal dialogue that bounces all around the
      room" (p. 134).



      Types of Questions



      Once the discussion is moving along, several

      kinds of questions are particularly helpful in

      maintaining momentum.



      Questions That Ask for More Evidence

      These questions are asked when participants state

      an opinion that seems unconnected to what's

      already been said or that someone else in the

      group thinks is erroneous, unsupported, or

      unjustified. The question should be asked as a

      simple request for more information, not as a

      challenge to the speaker's intelligence. Here are

      some examples:



      How do you know that?

      What data is that claim based on?

      What does the author say that supports your argument?

      Where did you find that view expressed in text?

      What evidence would you give to someone who doubted your interpretation?



      Questions That Ask for Clarification

      Clarifying questions give speakers the chance to

      expand on their ideas so that they are understood

      by others in the group. They should be an

      invitation to convey one's meaning in the most

      complete sense possible. Here are some examples:



      Can you put that another way?

      What's a good example of what you are talking about?

      What do you mean by that?

      Can you explain the term you just used?

      Could you give a different illustration of your point?



      Open Questions

      Questions that are open-ended, particularly those

      beginning with how and why, are more likely to

      provoke the students; thinking and

      problem-solving abilities and make the fullest

      use of discussion's potential for expanding

      intellectual and emotional horizons. Of course,

      using open questions obliges the teacher to take

      such responses seriously and to keep the

      discussion genuinely unrestricted. It is neither

      fair nor appropriate to ask an open-ended

      question and then to hold students accountable

      for failing to furnish one's preferred response.

      As Van Ments (1990) says, "The experienced

      teacher will accept the answer given to an open

      questions and build on it" (p.78). That is, as we

      all know, easier said than done.

      Here are some examples of open questions:



      Sauvage says that when facing moral crises,

      people who agonize don't act, and people who act

      don't agonize. What does he mean by this?

      (Follow-up question: Can you think of an example

      that is consistent with Sauvage's maxim and

      another that conflicts with it?)



      Racism pervaded American society throughout the

      twentieth century. What are some signs that

      things are as bad as ever? What are other signs

      that racism has abated significantly?



      Why do you think many people devoted their lives

      to education despite the often low pay and poor

      working conditions?



      Linking or Extension Questions

      An effective discussion leader tries to create a

      dialogical community in which new insights emerge

      from prior contributions of group members.

      Linking or extension questions actively engage

      students in building on one another's responses

      to questions. Here are some examples of such

      question:



      Is there any connection between what you've just

      said an d what Rajiv was saying a moment ago?

      How does your comment fit in with Neng's earlier comment?

      How does your observation relate to what the group decided last week?

      Does your idea challenge or support what we seem to be saying?

      How does that contribution add to what has already been said?



      These kinds of questions tend to prompt

      student-to-student conversation and help students

      see that discussion is a collaborative enterprise

      in which th e wisdom and experience of each

      participant contributes something important to

      the whole. Too often discussion degenerates into

      a gathering of isolated heads, each saying things

      that bear no relationship to other comments. The

      circular response exercise (see Chapter Four),

      which requires students to ground their comments

      in the words of the previous speakers, gives

      students practice in creating discussions that

      are developmental and cooperative. Skillfully

      employing linking questions can also help

      participants practice discussion as "a connected

      series of spoken ideas" (Leonard, 1991, p. 145).



      Hypothetical Questions

      Hypothetical questions ask students to consider

      how changing the circumstances of a case might

      alter the outcome. They require students to draw

      on their knowledge and experience to come up with

      plausible scenarios. Because such questions

      encourage highly creative responses, they can

      sometime cause learners to veer off into

      unfamiliar and seeming tangential realms. But

      with a group that is reluctant to take risks or

      that typically answers in a perfunctory,

      routinized manner, the hypothetical question can

      provoke flights of fancy that can take a group to

      a new level of engagement and understanding,

      Here are some examples of hypothetical questions:



      How might World War II have turned out if Hitler

      had not decided to attack the Soviet Union in

      1941?

      What might have happened to the career of Orson

      Welled, in RKO Studios had not tampered with his

      second film, The Magnificent Ambersons?

      In the video we just saw, how might the

      discussion have been different if the leader had

      refrained from lecturing the group?

      If Shakespeare had intended Iago to be a tragic

      or m ore sympathetic figure, how might he have

      changed the narrative of Othello?



      Cause-and-Effect Questions

      Questions that provoke students to explore

      cause-and-effect linkages are fundamental to

      developing critical thought. Questions that ask

      students to consider the relationship between

      class size and academic achievement or to

      consider why downtown parking fees double on days

      when there's a game at the stadium encourage them

      to investigate conventional wisdom. Asking the

      class-size question might prompt other questions

      concerning the discussion method itself, for

      example:



      What is likely to be the effect of raising the

      average class size from twenty to thirty on the

      ability of learners to conduct interesting and

      engaging discussions?

      How might halving our class affect our discussion?



      Summary and Synthesis Questions

      Finally, one of the most valuable types of

      questions that teachers can ask invites students

      to summarize or synthesize what has been thought

      and said. These questions call on participations

      to identify important ideas and think about them

      in ways that will aid recall. For instance, the

      following questions are usually appropriate and

      illuminating:



      What are the one or two most important ideas that emerged from this
      discussion?

      What remains unresolved or contentious about this topic?

      What do you understand better as a result of today's discussion?

      Based on our discussion today, what do we need to

      talk about next time if we're to understand this

      issue better?

      What key word or concept best captures out discussion today?



      By skillfully mixing all the different kinds of

      questions outlined in this chapter, teachers can

      alter the pace and direction of conversation,

      keeping students alert and engaged. Although good

      teachers prepare questions beforehand to ensure

      variety and movement, they also readily change

      their plans as the actual discussion proceeds,

      abandoning prepared questions and formulating new

      ones on the spot.



      References



      Welty, W. "Discussion Method Teaching." Change, 1989, 21(4), 41-49.



      Christensen, C. "The Discussion Leader in Action: Questioning, Listen-

      ing, and Response." In C. Christensen, D. Garvin, and A.
      Sweet

      (eds.), Education for Judgment: The Artistry of Discussion Leadership.

      Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1991a.



      Christensen, C. "Every Student Teaches and Every Student Learns: The

      Reciprocal Gift of Discussion Teaching." In C. Christensen,

      D. Garvin, and A. Sweet (eds.) Education for

      Judgment: The Artistry of Discussion Leadership.

      Boston: Harvard Business School, 1991b.



      Jacobson, R. "Asking Questions Is the Key Skill Needed for Discussion."

      Chronicle of Higher Education, July 25, 1984, p. 20.



      Welty, W. "Discussion Method Teaching." Change, 1989, 21(4), 41-49.



      Ferrier, B., Marrin, M., and Seidman, J. "Student Autonomy in Learning

      Medicine: Some Participants' Experiences." In D. Boud (ed.), Devel-

      oping Student Autonomy in Learning. New York: Nichols, 1988.



      Baetman, W.L. Open to Question: The Art of Teaching and Learning by
      Inquiry.

      San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990.



      Palmer, P.J. The Courage to Teach: Exploring the

      Inner Landscape of a Teacher's

      Life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998.



      Van Ments, M. Active Talk: The Effective Use of

      Discussion in Learning. New York:

      St. Martin's Press, 1990.



      Leonard, H. "With Open Ears: Listening and the Art of Discussion Lead-

      ing." In C. Christensen, D. Garvin, and A. Sweet (eds.), Education

      for Judgment: The artistry of Discussion Leadership. Boston: Harvard

      Business School Press, 1991.









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