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Resources on Discussion and Deliberation

More about Dining with Democracy

Here’s our article where we introduce Dining with Democracy and its uses in the classroom.:

McAvoy, P., Lowery, A., Wafa, N., & Byrd, C. (2020). Dining with Democracy: Discussion as informed action. Social Education, 84(5), 289-293. (PDF)

The Tug of War activity is based on an activity in Making Thinking Visible: How to promote engagement, understanding, and independence for all learners, by Ron Richart, Mark Church and Karin Morrison (Jossey-Bass, 2011).

About Classroom Discussion

Some principles we use when designing classroom discussion:

  1. All students will discuss when the conditions are conducive to discussion.
  2. Structure maximizes participation.
  3. Students need time to think before discussing.

Characteristics of good discussions: 

  1. Lots of student engagement
  2. Students direct comments to each other (build and extend understanding)
  3. Discussable questions (not recall)
  4. There is structure and purpose
  5. Students (and instructors) prepare in advance
  6. Students are adhering to classroom norms

Discussion Terms:

Controversial Issue: A question that has multiple competing views. A question that generates disagreement.

Controversial Topics: Content that could invite scrutiny from inside or outside of the class. Content that challenges dominant narratives in society. Often related to race, gender, sexual identity, religion, ethnicity, etc.

Discussion: Collective inquiry into a question that is open to interpretation.

Deliberation: A discussion that aims to come to a decision. A “what should we do?” question. This is a collaborative activity, unlike debate which is more adversarial.

Dialogue: A discussion process that aims to develop mutual understanding about how others (esp. those from marginalized groups) differently experience the world.

Other Helpful Resources

Ritchhart, R., Church, M., & Morrison, K. (2011). Making thinking visible: How to promote engagement, understanding, and independence for all learners. John Wiley & Sons.

Hess, D. E., & McAvoy, P. (2014). The political classroom: Evidence and ethics in democratic education. Routledge.

Kaplowitz, D. R., & Griffin, S. S. S. R. (Eds.). (2019). Race dialogues: A facilitator’s guide to tackling the elephant in the classroom. Teachers College Press.

Brookfield, S. D., & Preskill, S. (2016). The discussion book: 50 great ways to get people talking. John Wiley & Sons.

Lang, J. M. (2021). Small teaching: Everyday lessons from the science of learning. John Wiley & Sons.

ASSERT is a new open access journal for teachers that offers short, research-based essays. This issue is all about teaching with controversial issues. 

Cult of Pedagogy’s Big List of Discussion Discussion Strategies