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Integrating Discussion into a New Course

The blog has really come alive in the last month and a half, and I must admit I have a hard time keeping up with everyone’s posts, but they’ve been very helpful as I think about trying more discussion in class.

This semester I’m teaching a 300-level seminar in the field that is closest to my professional research area.  I decided to incorporate some small group discussion into the course, and I have two small four-person groups now.  They only convene every two weeks, but the students will take turns facilitating.  I did not do a lot to prepare them for the discussions, except to say that the facilitators have to come prepared with at least 4 discussion questions about the reading for the day, and the facilitator has to capture the ideas of the group on the flipchart, bring the pages home and produce a summary.  When I formed the groups, I took the two strongest majors, and put one in each group.  During the first discussion, one of these majors was the facilitator for her group.  She easily has the best grasp of the material of anyone in the room (except me, hopefully).  She proceeded to lecture to her group, explaining what she found interesting, how she interpreted certain points, and where she saw weaknesses in the author’s arguments.  One of her group members, who is eager to comprehend the material and knows that she doesn’t understand it, listened attentively.  The other two checked out.  Now I know it’s time to give them some more instruction on facilitation. Maybe half-assed doesn’t work the way I hoped it would.

I also will be taking two students from my Fall IF class and presenting some of our work from last semester to a mixed group of faculty and staff for our campus Leadership Institute.  Our focus will be on group facilitation as a leadership skill.  I hope it goes well, and I’m still planning the presentation, which is on March 5th.  Any tips would be welcome!

Michael