Once your classroom discussion is up and running (see earlier posts: Let’s Talk and Facilitating a Discussion) what is shared between your students must be captured. The unfolding views, thoughts and insightful ideas need to be carefully developed, monitored and …recorded!
The key theme for Ofsted, Educational Researchers and lesson observers is proof of student progress. This is more difficult to verify within a discussion. With a usual classroom task students show evidence of learning through Q/A, completion of worksheets or writing an assessment answer – with a discussion this takes on a whole new art form. How do you assess a unique piece of work to see if learning and progress has taken place? Yes you can set an essay after the discussion to assess learning but the beauty of that discussion has finished – those remarks and perceptive comments may now been lost.
So here are a few of my tips to ensure your discussion has purpose:
- Dedicate time for the discussion to flow (minimum 15 minutes)
- Set the learning objectives out as you would with any other task. Make it clear to the students the point/ purpose of the activity (all students to understand the strengths and weakness of …)
- Have a plan: just because it is a discussion it must be planned (from where you stand/sit, to what you will say if a comment comes up that is not appropriate, to leading it in a meaningful direction)
Proof of Purpose:
- Record Findings: the students must record their findings. I designed a sheet that can be adapted to help with this. At the start of the discussion the students will write their initial thoughts/ views. During the discussion the students will write their internal thoughts and the external discussion points given by other students. At the end the students will reflect upon the discussion and their original views to see how the discussion has progressed their learning : i.e has their view changed/ developed? This can then be used as a framework for an essay answer.