Layer 2: Conversation

To me, discussion is synonymous with learning.  I’m a firm believer that knowledge and meta-cognition are socially constructed, and that the most effective way to tap into that in the classroom is through discussion.  The videos about teachers using classroom discussion closely reflect my own educational experience, and I feel lucky to have had teachers who recognized the importance of social learning.  I plan on using discussion as the foundational element of my teaching.

I enjoyed reading about and watching the various forms that discussion can take, and plan on implementing several of them.  For example, in the audio clip of the teacher using reciprocal teaching, I think assigning jobs to group members can be a great way to navigate the challenges associated with group work.  If each student has a specific role in the group, work will be divided more evenly, allowing reluctant class participants to be engaged with the group work.  For the same reasons, I’m a big fan of jigsaw groups.  The small group format also encourages participation, as our authors point out that “a cooperative group, with its limited audience, provides more opportunity for students to contribute ideas to a discussion and take chances in the process” (Vacca, Vacca, Mraz 152).  Small group discussion will be a key element of my instructional philosophy.

I also think that whole class discussion has a valuable role in the classroom.  As a future middle school English teacher, the video about the Paideia Seminar was a glimpse of how I would love my classroom to be–a place where student response is valuable and meaning is socially constructed through teacher-guided, but student-driven discussion.  By using reader response through our class discussions, reluctant participants will be encouraged that there is not only one answer to a question.  If they read the text, then their response is valid and valued.  A classroom guided by social constructivism and reader response is one that provides encouragement to readers and helps them develop self-efficacy.  RCA2011



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6 responses to “Layer 2: Conversation

  1. I am so encouraged to read about how much you value open discussions! I am sure it has to be difficult to implement in middle school. Do you have any books that you are already preparing to read and discuss in your future classroom? From what you have written here, I am certain your classroom will be a rich learning environment,

  2. I completely agree with you! I think that they best way for students to learn is through discussion. It really holds students accountable for their reading when they are responsible to be apart of a group or have job in the group that they are required to do. When every student gets the chance to express their thoughts and questions about the text they read, it makes it so much more meaningful for them. I also like the quote that you noted from the reading. The smaller group setting for discussions does allow for students to feel comfortable and to take more chances with what their thoughts and questions.

  3. I liked the idea of assigning group jobs to each person. That way you do not have all leaders and nothing can get accomplished. Paidea was just started in our school this year, the first time I tried it I really enjoyed it. The students actually liked it too and learned alot from each other. Good Luck with that, with your content area you will be able to use this alot.

  4. I completely agree. I think you’re spot on with your theories about social learning and constructivism. I think for middle school the jigsaw/reciprocal teaching would work great. If someone had told me beforehand that middle schoolers would be engaged in the Paideia conversation as much as they were, I would have laughed, but after seeing them do it, I’m sure that you could definitely do it when you start teaching. Good luck.

  5. joebeazy

    You definitely had a good educational opportunity growing up and using discussions to gain knowledge in the classroom. Many teachers do not use discussion or do not know how to use it. I have a difficult time finding ways to use it in my classroom since much of my class is computer based, but I have found ways of using it. I think discussions are very important to get students to critically think about concepts and formulate their own opinions about them. Good luck with making your classroom student-driven in discussion as you dreamed.

  6. Cris

    You’ll be pleased to know, Hannah, that the National Paideia Center is located in Chapel Hill and there are plenty of opportunities to learn there — You’ll find that leading seminars is an art form that you’ll spent the entirety of your teaching career learning. It’s a beautiful thing to behold when done well. Enjoy this part of your teacher’s journey!

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