Some resources on facilitating and evaluating classroom discussion
Bean, John C. and Dean Peterson. "Grading Classroom Participation." New Directions for Teaching and Learning 74 (summer 1998): 33-40.
Abstract: "Grading class participation signals students about the kind of learning and thinking an instructor values. This chapter describes three models of class participation, several models for assessment including a sample rubric, problems with assessing classroom participation, and strategies for overcoming these problems."Bonnycastle, Stephen. In Search of Authority: An Introductory Guide to Literary Theory. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview, 1991.
Chapter Two, "Monologue and Dialogue in the Classroom," explores some practices that help and hinder dialogue.Brookfield, Stephen, and Stephen Preskill. "Getting Lecturers to Take Discussion Seriously." To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional, and Organizational Development. Vol. 18. Eds., Matthew Kaplan and Devorah Lieberman. Bolton, MA: Anker, 2000. 232-53.
The authors address common objections to using discussion in the classroom and explore reasons why discussions sometimes fail (teachers have unrealistic expectations; students are unprepared; ground rules are not established; reward systems are askew; teachers do not model effective participation in discussion).McKeachie, Wilbert J. Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath, 1994
Chapter Four, "Organizing Effective Discussions," explores reasons for using discussion and gives practical tips for the discussion leader.Trosset, Carol. "Obstacles to Open Discussion and Critical Thinking: The Grinnell College Study." Change 30 (September/October 1998): 44-9.
A study of 200 college students reveals their reasons why they are/are not interested in discussing "sensitive issues." Their assumptions about the purposes of discussion may surprise you!Weisberg, Mark, Christopher Knapper, and Susan Wilcox. Teaching More Students: Discussion With More Students. Kingston, Ontario: Instructional Development Centre (Queen's University), 1996.
Outlines a range of exercises that facilitate discussion in large classes, lists some common "problem incidents," and suggests strategies for "on-the-spot" resolutions.
Writing exercises to encourage discussion
Kloss, Robert J. "Writing Things Down vs. Writing Things Up. " College Teaching 44 (Winter 1996): 3-7.
Short writing exercises, followed by small group sessions and full-class discussions, foster active learning, collaboration, and critical thinking in the classroom.Fulwiler, Toby. "Writing Back and Forth: Class Letters." New Directions for Teaching and Learning 69 (Spring 1997): 15-25.
Abstract: "Writing letters back and forth with your [graduate] students increases dialogue, suggests rethinking, and encourages rewriting, yet the stakes remain low."Reber, Vera Blinn. "Pocket Folders and Discussion Participation." The News: About Teaching and Learning at Memorial 2 (January 1999):1 . [Reproduced with permission from The Teaching Professor 12 (May 1998).]
The author requires her upper-level and graduate students to prepare notes (which are eventually submitted, in a pocket folder, for her review) on a pre-assigned readings and discussion questions before class discussions: "I inform them that I use notes when leading the discussion, so in fairness, they should have notes as well."Student Writing Groups: Demonstrating the Process. Connie J. Hale and Susan Wyche-Smith. Tacoma, Washington: Wordshop productions, 1988.
This video shows a student reading an essay and getting feedback from an experienced peer-response group. A larger group of students observes the process, and then asks questions about the purposes, benefits and risks of engaging in this exercise. Many characteristics of good discussion about student writing are demonstrated and explained.