Creating a Culture of Collaborative Discourse

After watching Lucy West’s speech on creating a culture of collaboration,  I have decided to try these three things the next time I facilitate a lesson:

1. Don’t be satisfied with an answer just because it is correct. Always ask why and how they got to their answer. This may require a slow-down in the pacing of a discussion, which may be difficult for educators who feel pressed for time. Asking students to show their thinking provides the teacher with valuable insight. It also encourages the speaker to utilize metacognition to communicate understanding.

2. Students will often listen to the teacher and may not give credence to their peers. Facilitate rather than direct discussions where students will discuss the points that their peers make. Initially, this may require you as a teacher to repeat the comments of students due to the fact that peers may still be letting the teacher dominate the discussion out of habit. However, repeating what students say shows that their opinions matter. Over time, students will start to value the opinions of their peers and be compelled to directly respond to each other immediately rather than by mediation.

3. Be aware of group dynamics. Some students may dominate the discussion, while others may be deferential to others in order to avoid conflict. People who are used to individualistic work environments may not know how to work towards a common goal and may view school as a competition. Rather than refereeing a competitive arena where people may compromise just to appease the big players, work towards designing a collaborative environment where productive dissent is encouraged.

These are just a few ways to promote meaningful discussion, consolidation of ideas and critical thinking. What ways do you create a culture of collaboration in your classroom?

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