Last year, my daughter explained how appreciative she was of her white college professor who, as she began facilitating a face-to-face discussion in her Black history class, opened varied channels for discussion. All students were expected to “participate in class” but they were also expected to be thoughtful about how and when and where they added their own perspectives to the discussions that began there.

This was important, my daughter explained, because as a white student, she didn’t feel it was appropriate to claim the floor when certain questions were posed–particularly when her Black classmates had far better and more important insights to share. She wanted to listen. She also knew she’d be held accountable for participating, too.

“So I added my thinking to the discussion board in our Moodle,” she explained.

This gave her time to listen, think, and plan a thoughtful response. It also gave all of her classmates the time and space to slowly dig into complicated conversations. It led to better thinking about equity and how teachers might attend to it thoughtfully as they facilitate and require learners to participate in classroom discussions. We’ve talked about this often, since.

And I’m still thinking.

I’m sharing a few ideas, resources, and tools for facilitating better classroom discussions in this week’s newsletter. 

You’ll find protocols, a working draft of a rubric that I’m working on for my own class, question stems, and other “stuff”–if it interests you.

But I can’t help but feel that getting better at this has everything to do with doing better in far bigger and more complex ways.

How about you?


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