This week my two ANTH202 classes started using the discussion process formally (with flip charts & markers); last week they had a trial run. Like in my FYS, most groups were animated and “done” before the class ended. These are the issues that surfaced:

  1. Some groups faced difficulties integrating readings with news because the news reports were unrelated. I assigned two readings that addressed the problem of reducing the gap between teachers & parents and teachers & administrators. Students were asked to bring a news report that could fuel discussion on this topic. I told them: first discuss the news report and identify concerns; them look at approaches and consider the ones proposed by readings; finally think of ways to approach and implications. Well, it didn’t quite work…
    1. In one class, many students brought news that had nothing to do with the readings assigned and they did not know how to proceed with the discussion; what was their concern area: the readings or the news report? How to connect both?
    2. In the other class, most students did not bring news but rather commentaries about the importance of teaching-student relations so there was no controversy to address. The news and the readings went in the same direction. This class moved better than the other because at least they could see connections, but there was not really brainstorming of social policy-oriented concerns.
  2. I noticed that students were very intent on finding specific solutions to problems. They asked themselves, what would they do to improve the communication with parents? They went ahead into advising, “Do x, y, z.”  No general complexities seen or mentioned.  
  3. I noticed that they faced difficulties challenging values – for example, they did not want to consider that possibility of visiting the parents because that is intrusive; they also faced difficulty challenging their own judgments – if they called and the parent did not reply, then obviously the parent did not care. How to move them to consider other possibilities?