Notes on Teaching and Advising
in a Racially Diverse Setting
SETTING THE STAGE
PRODUCING PEER GROUPS
GOALS - Often students learn more outside of the classroom than they do over the hour or so of interaction with faculty during class. A main idea behind discussion partnering is to help structure how some of that time outside of class may be spent. Another goal of discussion partnering is to expose students to the diversity of experiences and opinions that might not always be expressed during a class conversation. Some students are better able to communicate during class periods than others; discussion partnering requires all students to be able to articulate their ideas with at least one person in the course. Also, as the semester progresses, the possibility exists that individuals may solicit the opinion of persons with whom they have been discussion partners regarding particular subject matter in the class.
PROCEDURES- On a weekly basis, students can be paired with someone else in the course with whom they will discuss a specific question related to the topic for that week. I would recommend that students be paired randomly and that care be taken to ensure that no two students are paired more than once over the entire term. The students should be required to meet outside of class and discuss the question(s) of the week. The written work associated with the discussion partnership should consist of two parts. In the first part, the partners should create a summary of the discussion that occurred. (Nothing so detailed as a transcript, but more than just a short paragraph.) The students should be encouraged to work together to create this summary. The other part pertains to reactions to what was discussed. Here, the students should have an opportunity to reflect upon
1) what they learned from the conversation,
2) what they became confused or did not understand about particular points of the conversation, and
3) how aspects of their conversation might have related to course material.
Each student will be required to submit his or her own discussion partnership paper.
* It is vitally important that students engaged in discussion partnership be provided with discussion guidelines. Without such clear, written guidelines, discussion partnerships have the potential to lead to misunderstandings and behaviors that can adversely affect not only the relationship between the students involved, but the class as a whole.
I will set up a system for evaluating discussion to make sure they are productive in both implicit and explicit ways.
GOALS - Discussion can be a key component of the learning process in many courses, so attention to the ways in which students may interpret explicit
and implicit information shared in discussions may improve the experience of
students in the course. Also, discussion processing can empower students to
confront assumptions that may inadvertently be made by the instructor and
fellow students and establish class norms that facilitate a respectful
PROCEDURES- I would recommend that discussion processing be done after the
first or second class conversation. Students should be asked to write down
their thoughts about 1) any features of discussion that they appreciate, 2)
any problems that they have experienced during discussions, 3) possible
solutions for the problems that they might have encountered. After students
have had an opportunity to commit their thoughts to paper, the papers should
be collected, randomly redistributed, and read aloud by whoever now has the
paper. Care should be taken to not have individuals receive their own
discussion process paper. The instructor should write on a marker board or
transparency the comments from each of the three categories. The class can
then discuss each of the comments and arrive at norms that should govern
conversations as a group.