Discussion Norms

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 Establishing Discussion Norms with Students


Discussion and debrief time in groups can be a significant part of the learning experience for students. Explicitly defining and practicing discussion norms will set students up for success. Naming the steps can ensure clarity and create a structure of accountability for the group. Explaining why the expectations exist will garner buy-in from the students. Once you have named the steps, the process can be gradually released to students so that they can learn facilitation skills that will be useful to them later in life.

Things to consider addressing with the group:

1.     Define what listening will look and sound like in the group. What is the acceptable range of student behavior for showing listening? What are expectations regarding fidgeting?

2.     Develop a system to ensure one voice speaking at a time. You can use a talking object such as a folded bandana or stick. Alternatively, you can have students call on or point to one another to speak.

3.     Define expectations for sharing. Do you want all students to share in every conversation? How will you manage more enthusiastic sharers alongside quieter students?

4.     Create a system of communication signals. Hand signals that show agreement, disagreement, appreciation, and/or a request for clarification help keep students engaged and accountable in the conversation.

5.     Encourage different opinions and promote thoughtful responses. This will promote discourse where students use evidence to build off of or disagree with their peers’ claims. You can scaffold this by introducing specific sentence stems.