Seminars and Deliberations Strategies for Engaging Students in Civil Discourse
Why Lead Students from “Idiocy to Citizenship” • Helps students understand the value of public interest versus personal interest • Promotes appreciation of diversity in ideas • Teaches Perspective-taking • Promotes Moral Development • Promotes better understanding of academic content • Makes connections to life outside of school
Forms of Discussion • Cognitive-Moral Dilemma Discussions (Kohlberg, 1971) • Seminars and Deliberations (Parker, 2003) • Structured Academic Controversy (Johnson and Johnson, 1995; Larson, 1996) • Socratic Seminar (Adler, 1982)
Source Parker, Walter C. (2003). Teaching Democracy: Unity and Diversity in Public Life. New York: Teachers College Press
Socratic Seminar • Purpose: enlarged understanding of the ideas, issues, and values in or prompted by the “text” • Text Can come in different forms: • historical novel • primary source document • Essay • photo • Film • Play • painting
Selecting a powerful text • One that arouses discussants intellectually and morally • Disagreements about meaning broaden horizons as a shared meaning is constructed • Typically deal with text excerpts (4-5 pages) which leads to more intensive work over a smaller ground.
Preparing to lead a seminar: classroom management decisions • Arrangement of students • Whole-class • Fish bowl • Microseminars • How to hold students accountable for completing the reading? • Is participation in the seminar required and graded?
Preparing to lead a seminar: classroom management decisions • What norms will be posted • Don’t raise hands • Listen to and build on the comments of others • Invite others into the discussion • Support opinions by referring to passages in the text • Tie your knowledge of the struggle for civil rights into your interpretation of King’s letter. • Teaching students how to challenge or seek clarification from one another • “I have a different opinion” • “I disagree, let me explain”
Preparing to lead a seminar: the opening question • Most important part of seminar facilitation • Should be interpretative not factual or evaluative • Is concerned with the meaning of the ideas, issues, and values in a text. • Other questions (e.g., evaluative) can be used later.
Debriefing a Seminar • Did we achieve the “purpose” • Ask for each participant to make an observation about the seminar • Problems that can be addressed immediately or in the next seminar should be clearly identified and addressed. • Students could be asked to write a follow-up essay expanding on their original understanding.
Deliberative Discussion • Purpose: Deciding on a plan of action to solve a problem • Central Activity: • Clarifying the problem • Considering Alternatives • Opening Question: What should we do about this? • Some overlap with Seminars but the purposes and emphases are distinct
During a Discussion of a Controversial Issue • Am I listening to what other people are saying or am I missing important points? • Am I making claims clearly and supporting them with facts? • Am I critiquiting ideas not individuals and being respectful of other’s viewpoints? • Am I helping to develop a shared understanding of the problem or issue
During a Discussion of a Controversial Issue • Provide an overview of the controversy: pro and con • Assign students evenly into pro or con position and groups of four (with a pair representing each position) • In pairs of similar position discuss best reasons for support (or not) • Reassign students into pairs of opposing positions and explore best reasons for support (or not) • Invite students to establish their own position and hold large class discussion • Write a dialogic essay reflecting on the controversy
5 Conditions for Ideal Deliberation • Students are engaged in integrated decision-making discussions that involve genuine value conflicts that arise out of relating to one another at school • Discussion group is diverse enough that students have the benefit of reasoning and social perspectives different from their own. • The discussion group is free of domination -- gross or subtle • The discussion leader is skilled at comprehending and presenting reasoning and perspectives that are missing, countering conventional ideas with critical thinking , and advocating position that are inarticulate or being drummed out of consideration • Discussions are dialogic Source: Parker, Walter (2005). Teaching against idiocy. Phi Delta Kappan.January
Bibliography • Adler, M. (1982). The paideia proposal. New York: McMillian • Kohlberg, L. & Turiel, E. (1971). Moral development and moral education. In G. Lesser, ed. Psychology and educational practice. Scott Foresman. • Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (1995). Creative controversy: Intellectual challenge in the classroom (3rd ed.). Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company. • Parker, Walter C.(2003). Teaching Democracy: Unity and Diversity in Public Life. New York: Teachers College Press.
Resources • For Discussion Strategies • Kohlberg’s Cognitive-Moral Development • http://tigger.uic.edu/~lnucci/MoralEd/ • Deliberation: Structured Academic Controversy • http://www.cooplearn.org/pages/academic.html • Seminars: Socratic Seminar • http://www.studyguide.org/socratic_seminar.htm • Sources for Powerful Texts • Zinn, Howard and Anthony Arnove (2004). Voices of the American People. Seven Stories Press: New York. • Ravitch, Diane. (1990). The American Reader. Harper Collins: New York • Sources for films, books and other materials • http://socialstudies.com/