I was recently introduced to Deliberating in a Democracy in the Americas (DDA), a valuable online resource for teachers interested in helping their students develop skills in discussing controversial topics. It uses the Structured Academic Controversy (SAC) model, developed by David and Roger Johnson of the University of Minnesota to provide structure and focus to classroom discussions. Not all issues can be easily debated as pro / con positions. SAC provides students with a framework for addressing complex issues in a productive manner that builds their skills in reading, analyzing, listening, and discussion. It shifts the goal from "winning" the argument to active listening to opposing viewpoints and distilling areas of agreement. It's a prime skill for civic participation and in alignment with Common Core close reading skills
The DDA site has all the material teachers will need to support discussion in 15 interesting deliberation questions including:
- Should our democracy allow schools to punish students for off-campus cyberbullying?
- In our democracy, should violent juvenile offenders be punished as adults?
- Should all citizens in our democracy participate in one year of mandatory national service?
- Should our democracy permit the cultivation of genetically modified foods?
The site includes well-documented background readings in English and Spanish with audio versions of each. And it provides links to additional online resources and a glossary of important terms for each question. It also includes a poll on the website where students can vote and see how other students have voted.
Link to a pdf that demonstrates how SAC aligns with Common Core Standards.
How to teach Structured Academic Controversy in the history classroom.
DDA details the SAC process as follows:
- Introduction. Teachers review the meaning of deliberation, the reasons for deliberating, and the rules for deliberation.
- Careful Reading of the Text. Students read the text individually, in small groups of 4 or as a whole class in order to reach a common understanding of the reading. If students do not understand the reading, the deliberation will not be successful. As a whole class or in their small groups, students agree on at least three interesting facts and/or ideas.
- Clarification. After checking for understanding of the terms and content, the teacher makes sure students understand the deliberation question.
- Presentation of Positions. Students work in small groups of 4 divided into pairs (A & B). Each pair is assigned a position. The position of the A’s is to find at least two compelling reasons to say YES to the deliberation question. The position of the B’s is to find at least two compelling reasons to say NO to the deliberation question. A’s teach B’s at least two reasons to say YES to the deliberation question. B’s teach A’s at least two reasons to say NO to the deliberation question. (Handout #2)
- Reversal of Positions. The pairs reverse positions. The B pair now adopts the position to say YES to the deliberation question; the A pair adopts the position to say NO to the deliberation question. The A’s & B’s should select the best reason they heard from the other pair and add at least one additional compelling reason from the reading to support their new position.
- Free Discussion. Students drop their assigned roles and deliberate the question in their small groups. Each student reaches a personal decision based on evidence and logic.
- Whole Class Debrief. The teacher leads the whole class in a discussion to gain a deeper understanding of the question, democracy, and deliberation. What were the most compelling reasons for each side? What were the areas of agreement? What questions do you still have? Where can you get more information? What is your position? (Poll the class on the deliberation question.) In what ways, if any, did your position change? Is there an alternative policy that might address the problem more effectively? What, if anything, might you or your class do to address this problem?
- Student Reflection. Students complete the reflection form either at the end of class or for homework.
Hat tip to Marilyn Cover at the Classroom Law Project for introducing me to DDA and SAC.
Image credit / flickr jaycross
Sadly, the world lost David Foster Wallace, in 2008. Fortunately, his writings live on. Recently his thoughtful 2005 Kenyon College commencement address was given new life in “This is Water” a video by The Glossary.
Wallace concludes: It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over. This is water.
I had a great time recording a podcast with Mark Hofer and David Carpenter for their series Ed Tech Co-Op.
Mark led off by asking me to reflect back on my some of the driving themes in my career. I confessed that as a novice teacher, I mimicked my experience as a high school student and taught primarily via lecture mixed with an occasional “guess what the teacher is thinking” whole-group discussion.
But I recalled an “aha” moment after repeated visits to the art class in the classroom next door. I realized that if the art teacher taught art, the way I taught history, his students would be sitting there watching him paint.
A step-by-step guide to student writing that demonstrates the power of student choice, authentic audience and self-reflection. Sixth graders are motivated by writing “Traveling Through the Human Body with ABCs” for a third grade audience. The project demonstrates how to help students master content and develop project management and teamwork skills. The power of publishing enables students to think like writers, to apply their learning strategies and to organize and express their learning. It exemplifies the best of the information revolution – students as creators of content rather than as passive audience.
It’s back to school time. Get ready for that opening day faculty meeting where you sit and listen, while wishing you could be getting some actual work done in your classroom. Here’s few disruptive questions you could pose to subvert the status quo in your school. Let’s begin with who’s learning, who’s not, and what are we doing about it?
As a teacher you get to reinvent yourselves every year, but if you want to change schools everything is conspiring against you. Here’s some reflective questions that will help you subvert the status quo in your classroom. Let’s begin with, If a question has a correct answer, is it worth asking?
I recently was asked to keynote at the MicroSociety annual conference in Philadelphia. While my schedule prevented me from appearing in person, I thought it was a great opportunity to see if I could scale my small group webinar model into a conference keynote.
I used WebEx as my platform and attendees brought their own web-enabled devices to access to respond to my questions and prompts via LearningCatalytics.
Here’s how it went.
Keynoters typically show up, explain their model, answer questions, etc. If all goes well, folks leave with an understanding of the ideas you pitched to them. Transfer of content is easy in the digital age, it’s processing the learning that’s the challenge. So I elected to flip my keynote. Why not use one of the strategies I recommend to teachers?
Here’s how I used my two hours – not to present, but to put them through a variety of experiences to provoke their reflections. (With more on how to flip your class.)
At the core of the creative process is the willingness to step back, reflect on what you’ve accomplished, ask how it’s going and then get back to working on it some more. So after a few weeks of using iBooks Author (IBA), I thought it was time to practice what I preach. I’ll use this post to explore my initial reaction to working with IBA framed with by thoughts on the reflective process. As I took a closer look at IBA, I realized that while it presented some interesting opportunities, IBA had some notable shortcomings. On the plus side, it’s very easy to create an engaging mix of text, images, recordings, and videos. Perfect for my first IBA project – a document-based history iBook.
A new CEP report, “Student Motivation—An Overlooked Piece of School Reform” pulls together findings about student motivation from decades of major research. Four key elements of motivation are detailed – Competence, Control/autonomy, Interest/value, and Relatedness. Links to report, findings and suggestions that teachers, schools and parents can use to motivate students.