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joycetheriot's picture

Tangential Conversations

In any size classroom, I believe that it’s necessary to develop alternate ideas. My large classes start out exploring their own thinking and I’m looking for a variety of responses. Then we shift into a small group setting and the group facilitator may be one of the original respondents whose job is to gather all the opinions of their own group using my constructed frame similar or sometimes different to the one I used initially, and engage in the same process. The frame will have them identify the similarities and differences of the opinions, discuss and see if it’s possible to ultimately come to a consensus based on the evidence and/or logic of the arguments.
We come back to a whole class discussion and the groups present what idea or ideas that they value now. Again the whole class discusses the differences and similarities mostly facilitated by the group leaders. Lastly we take a step back and decide what we all perhaps value as our class consensus which may still be multiple ideas. With a printed frame and structured time limits this rich interaction can be accomplished in one class period.

Often when the class lacks consensus and the students are emotionally charged; I will do one of two things: first allow more time on another day because I’m very interested in what the students are revealing about their content understanding or I will simply end it that same day and tell them that they are feeling what scientists themselves go through. I describe that when scientists collaborate, they get frustrated, and perhaps angry but eventually go back to work on gathering m

How I organize the information that I gain from this and other methods I use in my classroom is described in my portfolio: Probing Understanding.(under construction)



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