Have you ever listened in on a group of children trying to share be heard while also trying to come to a consensus? In my experience it usually ends up sound like a loud bunch of Chihuahuas; students talking over each other, getting louder and louder. This is precisely why students need to be taught how to participate in a conversation. When students are in the heat of the moment, its difficult to see what they could have done to improve their experience. It is important for students to take responsibility of their participation. Therefore, in this lesson, I have chosen to have the class observe one group have discussion. This activity is typically called a fishbowl experience.
In the first part of this lesson, each group of student representing a different point-of-view presents their notes to the class. While they present to the class, the rest of the students take notes. Once notes have been taken, students break up into groups to discuss solutions to the trade-offs and propose ways of solving the problems.
This is where discussion protocols are introduced.
When I introduce this to the students, I remind them that they just finished studying and presenting the point-of-view of a group that has a stake in the quality of the environment we live in. Sometimes people and groups with different points-of-view come together at a town hall meeting or a conference to try to solve a problem and share their ideas. Now, the students will have an opportunity to try it out. They will be working together to figure our compromises or solutions to the trade-off so that the different groups can make decisions to solve a problem.
The example I give them is about busses having to charge more to cover the cost of gas and upkeep but also not wanting to discourage people from riding the bus. The trade off is that if the busses raise the fares then people won’t ride the bus, which will be bad for the environment. The compromise or solution to the problem is that busses will charge a reduced fare during off-peak times and a little bit more during peak times. That way people aren’t discouraged but the busses get to collect more money.
I tell the students that when they discuss in their group, they will still keep these points-of-view in mind but they will also be sharing their own ideas about how to solve the problem.
Before we get started, we need to think about what a successful group discussion looks like and sounds like.
At this point, I call on students to help me fill out an anchor chart with their ideas. I try to do this part quick so that I get a chance for students to observe a group participating in a discussion.
I preselected a group of students who I felt would be confident enough to share in front of the class. I had them sit in the middle of the group with the rest of the class sitting around them. Then I have then begin their discussion while the class looks for successful ways of discussion.
After about 5 minutes, I stop the group and ask the class some guiding questions.
Finally, I ask the class if there is anything that needed to be added to the list of sounds like and looks like.
Then I send the group off to discuss together.
Let us try it again
Students chose their favorite proposal and present it to the class. As a group, they need to decide which proposal seems most successful or likely to work if actually put into effect. I also suggest that they choose either one that is creative and unique or one that students have really developed through conversation. Usually, when a proposal is interesting, the conversation within the group lingers rather than moving on. This proposal is also probably the most engaging the rest of the class as well.
After the share, I ask each student to individually reflect on his or her group’s conversation by using a questionnaire. Even though students have specific conversation skills to work on during a group conversation, they are most likely focused on the content of the conversation more than being reflective of how they did. Therefore, I want them always have the opportunity to reflect on the process, especially self reflect so that may potential make a goal to improve next time.