My first week of simulating the IF process via my facilitation and notetaking for the class discussion went OK. It is a large group (around 40), and I made students responsible for taking turns speaking, building on each others’ comments, and making sure everyone spoke at least once. Since the first few weeks are about generating good questions, I periodically interjected comments about what generating questions involves, about the importance of entertaining all possibilities, and about how I thought the discussion process would evolve over the course of the semester. At the end of the discussion, we discussed how the discussion process went. Students are very excited about participating in small group discussions but are also eager to figure out what constitutes good discussion in terms of content and process.
Part of how students will be assessed includes evaluating each facilitator’s pre-facilitation outline. The outline is supposed to include discussion goals, questions, and notation of key concepts (from the assigned readings) that might get raised. I prepared a pre-facilitation outline for my facilitation of the first week’s discussion, and at the end of the discussion I distributed it to all students as an example for what they should prepare in their role as facilitators. Students liked this a lot. Each facilitator will also complete a reflection paper, which will be graded.
I plan to observe small groups and provide feedback to individual facilitators and notetakers and to each group post-discussion the first few weeks. Students will also get feedback from their group members on their individual participation and the group discussion process each week by completing evaluation forms (which I created for this purpose) and sharing this information with their group. Each group must spend some time at the end of session discussing how to improve continuing discussion, but this information will not be used for grading.
I think using the IF discussion process will be a learning process for us all. While all students will be learning how to participate in and facilitate good discussions, I recognize that this is a developmental process – for some of us more than others on an individual level, and for all of us on the interactivity level.