Program Overview

The Program Basics

  1. Participants will meet for two-and-a-half-days for training.
  2. Participants will receive $500 for completing all elements in our study: attending training sessions, completing participant surveys, and administering student surveys.
  3. Participants will have access to the Grouping Tool and have the option to receive feedback classroom practice from an instructional coach.

Currently funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education Fund, The Discussion Project is undergoing a large, mixed-methods study. We will offer six cohorts each year in 2019-20 and 2010-21.

The Discussion Project draws upon the most recent research on classroom discussions in higher education to identify effective facilitation strategies. We have designed the program around these practices and scaffolded the learning so the participants move from basic, low-risk strategies to more complex strategies. Please see below for the topics that will be covered during The Discussion Project program. 

DISCUSSION PROJECT TITLE AND TAGLINE

 

“I learned useful discussion strategies that I can use for the entirety of my career.”
TA, Wisconsin School of Business

“I wanted to … underline how much I enjoyed and benefited from The Discussion Project … I feel like it’s been a coming home of sorts giving me permission to teach responsively and effectively by purposefully designing classes to support student-centered discussion.”
– Gail P., Department of Curriculum & Instruction

Getting Students Talking

Participants will be able to 1) identify discussable topics that can be included in their courses and 2) learn strategies to use in the first few weeks of the course that create an inviting climate for discussion. To that end, we will examine what it means to build an inclusive and academically challenging classroom environment for all students that also honors and expects differences of opinion; explore why it is important to do so; and teach research-based strategies for creating such a climate. We will also introduce a set of tools that participants can use to learn about their students’ attitudes toward discussion and the course material. Participants will be expected to spend some time out of class thinking about their first class of the semester and how they might apply some of these strategies.

Structuring Small Group Discussions

After explaining how Universal Design for Learning should undergird lesson development, we will introduce participants to different forms of small group discussion that maximize student participation and learning. Participants will learn a set of paired and small group discussion strategies: The Last Word, Jigsaw, and Structured Academic Controversy.

Facilitating Large Group Discussions

Building on the prior work, we will consider the purposes of large group discussion. Participants will learn strategies for preparing students for large group discussions and for designing discussion questions.

Assessing Discussion 

In the conclusion to the second day of the training, participants will learn different strategies for giving feedback on discussion skills (for individuals and groups) and consider the effects of different assessment system on student participation and classroom climate.

The Ethics of Discussion

In the final session, which is held a number of weeks into the semester, we will first check in on participants’ progress with use of discussion strategies, including any professional dilemmas that have arisen.  Further, we will address how to respond to comments that potentially damage classroom climate, using a case study discussion strategy.

 

Instructional Coaching

An instructional coach will be available to all Discussion Project participants. The instructional coach is an important resource to help instructors enhance the discussion in their classes. Coaching resources include observations, lesson planning, troubleshooting, and talking out dilemmas in facilitating discussion.