When's the last time your class had a real conversation about an academic topic. NOT "Student,teacher, student, teacher student, teacher, back and forth volley, but a conversation where you do not speak, except to ask questions or guide procedure?
You should hear "student student student student student" and they're not just speaking into the void, they are asking each other follow up questions, mentioning each other by name, agreeing and disagreeing with evidence? Has it been a while? Even if it's never happened, it can if you want it to.
Academic discussion is the most valuable thing we do in my class. If students are bad at it, that's because they haven't been taught it or haven't been able to practice, or haven't been held to the rules.
Even then it's not always perfect. Sometimes I think it has failed. Sometimes, when I think it's failed it has and sometimes I'm being too hard on the students, expecting a level of expertise they just aren't ready for yet.. But whether or not you feel good about your first attempts, you must keep at it becuase if students don't practice, they will never learn the skill. And it is essential for our democratic society that we teach its citizense the art of discuourse, to know the value of argument over arguing, to listen actively, to put forth and assess evidence, to recognize biases and fallacious arguments. These are things we don't have a course on in k12 education. So we must embed it.
Here's how I lay the groundwork:
Resources for Academic Conversations:
Gurthie's Online Discussion Rules
Gurthie's Academic Discussion Score Guide -Go for a 4 Avoid the level 1 and 2 behaviors.
Activity Wheel - Rules and Procedures for Every Different Class Activity, including discussions:
Related Posts and Resources
I am Lisa Gurthie the PD facilitator at Piedmont IB Middle School. She specializes in tech and arts integration, interdisciplinary, holistic education, and unschooling school to make it more real and relevant. One day I will modernize my "about" page. Check out the other blogs on this site for Lesson Ideas, Celebration of Good Teaching, and Piedmont PD