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Running head: ANALYSIS
Discussion Analysis
Karen Brady
Western Michigan University
Discussion Analysis
One of the most pivotal ways a student learns to converse with peers and adults is through practice. Holding discussions in the classroom is the key to this development, which occurs simultaneously with students learning how to conjure sentences that explain their thoughts. Many of my future students will have emotional impairments, which often results in deficiencies in social skills. One way that I can help my students develop these crucial social skills is to hold discussions that challenge them to step outside of their comfort zone, and practice explicating their thoughts and feelings. In order to facilitate these imperative discussions, I have observed a college-level discussion with the intent to analyze teacher techniques that worked well and those that did not.
I observed an upper level college class discussion that occurred for 30 minutes and 43 seconds. The class consisted of 17 females and 5 males; therefore, there were a total of 22 students present for the discussion that was facilitated by one teacher. The ratio of females to males was 3.4 to 1. The classroom contained three chairs and a table for the teacher that was placed near the east wall. The students chairs all faced the teachers chairs and table.
The students chairs were attached to a desk, and every one of them sat at least 5 feet behind the teachers chairs. There were 33 desks for students in the classroom, with 11 of them being unused. However, instead of moving the desks to one area of the room to clear up some of the clutter, they remained scattered among students, which put a distance between students. Having the desks sitting in between students seemed to leave students detached from one another. Another aspect that hindered the effectiveness of a discussion was that the students were not in a circle. Instead, all of the students faced the east wall; therefore, besides the four students sitting in the front row, 18 students were facing the backs of their peers heads. This hinders eye contact and personalization of student participation.
The class began with the professor asking students to take out their reflections to the question, Respect is one of the key factors in any human interaction, and this extends specifically to cultural sensitivity. In what ways do you currently demonstrate respect to your students? How could you improve the culture of respect in your classroom? (Sandel, 2006). After the teacher read these two reflection questions, all 22 students pulled out piece of paper that at least appeared to have a response written on it. The teacher described her answer to the questions for 1 minute and 10 seconds before asking students If anyone would be willing to share your written response with the class? The teacher waited 12 seconds before specifically asking, Chris will you share your response? After Chris shared his thoughts, the teacher responded. The discussion pattern was T-s-T-s-T-s-T-s-T. Every time a student talked, the teacher responded for a longer period of time than the student, three times the teacher talked more than twice as long as the student.
This part of the discussion lasted 8 minutes and 33 seconds. The teacher 6 minutes and 13 seconds and the student talked for 2 minutes and 20 seconds. The teacher talked more than twice as long as the students combined. Only 4 students spoke during this portion of the discussion, with only 1 volunteer and the other 3 students being called on by name. The ratio of female response to male response was 3 to 1, which is pretty close to the classroom total ratio of 3.4 to 1.
I feel as though the teacher should not have given her response to the question before the students. All of the students that spoke during this part of the discussion touched on the points mentioned by the teacher in her reflection. Her response seemed to poise as an indicator of what she wanted to hear. Had the teacher not shared her reflection, the students may have shared their opinions. Also, I think the teacher should have waited a longer for student volunteers. The longest the teacher waited was 12 seconds. This is a short amount of time for a student to look at their paper and decide what they want to share with the class. Waiting an additional 5 or more seconds might have yielded a higher amount of student volunteers. I think the teacher talked too much overall in this discussion. As it was a discussion on reflection questions and the students had written responses, if the students were not volunteering she should have called on more rather than filling the time by hearing herself talk.
At this time the teacher asked students to get in groups of three to share their reflections with one another. The teacher also required that one of the group members must record the ideas discussed with the rest of the class. The students were allowed to pick their group members, and after 45 seconds they were divided into six groups of three, and one group of four. There were 4 groups of 3 girls, 1 group of 3 males, 1 group of 4 females, and 2 groups of 2 females and 1 male. I think that the teacher should have divided the small groups off by numbers or another way because the students just seemed to pick a group that consisted of friends. Although this can sometimes be beneficial because students may often feel more comfortable sharing their ideas with their friends, the students in this class seemed in a rush to get their discussions so they could turn the conversations to a personal level. I overheard three groups talked about issued that did not relate to the topics students were instructed to discuss.
Having each group assign a recorder to take notes about the ideas discussed provided the students with a reference to refer back to when the class reconvenes as a whole group. It helped eliminate students from eliciting the response, I dont remember exactly what we talked about. However, the groups should be informed that the recorder is not necessarily the one responsible for addressing the whole class. I think the large group discussion would have benefited more if each student was responsible for taking notes on the main ideas from the small group discussion.
The arrangement of desks during the small group discussions once again was not ideal. In three of the seven groups, the students did not make an attempt to move around their desks to face each other. These three groups sat side by side in a line the entire time. The teacher should have instructed the groups to form a circle, because only two of the seven groups made this formation. There was only one student who actually switched desks to move closer to his group members.
The teacher waited 2 minutes and 21 seconds before walking around the class. While standing near 3 of the groups she paused for 10-20 seconds. At the all male group, and at the group of four girls, she asked them What have you guys talked about? The teacher did not walk by two of the groups. The small group discussions went on for 5 minutes and 38 seconds. I feel as though this was too long of time for these discussions, as I saw 8 of the 22 students glance at the clock at least once. I also heard three groups discussions topics that were completely irrelevant to the subject of the discussion, which means at least 48% of the groups were off-task. If the teacher did not wish to shorten the time, then she should have provided an additional question for discussion, such as asking the students to relate their ideas to their classroom experiences. Also the small groups should have taken place prior to the large group discussion. This would get students brainstorming on answers for the large group by removing some of the pressure by talking first to a smaller group of peers. Also, this would allow for more students to share answers rather than the teacher dominating the discussion.
I liked that the teacher gave the students time to start their discussions by themselves prior to her walking around. This can help students to engage in a discussion by themselves comfortably rather then feeling pressure with a teacher standing nearby. I feel as though the teacher walking around positively effected the small group discussions. It let the students know that they may be subject to being questioned, so they should have a response to share. Also, if the teacher is not engaged in overseeing the discussions, it sends the message to the students that it is not really important for them to put forth a noteworthy effort. Additionally, students will often start to goof around or veer off topic if they are not being observed, even at the college level.
Once the teacher was finished walking around the class and standing next to the projector, she asked that Everyone divert their eyes back to the front of the class. Then, she proceeded to mention a few of the ideas she overheard the small groups discussing for one minute. At this time she asked students, If you would share what you discussed. A few hands darted in the air a few seconds later, and she proceeded to point to them one by one so they could share their responses. Three students shared their responses for a total time of 2 minutes and 2 seconds. The teacher then provided unspecific positive feedback by merely stating, I like the idea, and then she went into some of her ideas that went along with the students statements. I think that the teacher should have allowed more students to talk once again, rather than bringing her ideas in the classroom. Once students were done volunteering, then the teacher could have talked about her ideas. However, I did like how she linked it back to a question addressing the students by asking, Who else agrees and why?
Four students responded to this question, with three of them volunteering to share their answers. After these four responses, the teacher provided specific positive feedback by saying, I like the idea of and then she restated the points made by two of the students, which can leave students entering a start of boredom by constantly rehearing the same thing over and over. Also, it gives the teacher some of the ownership of the answer rather than the student. After she talked about this for a minute, the teacher asked students to share their personal experiences of where and how they have seen these ideas modeled in the classroom. Three students responded to this question, with all of them being volunteers. Having the students link the ideas to real life is very important as it brings abstract ideas to concrete examples. Real life examples will help students realize how they can act on these ideas in the classroom, and brings higher levels of understanding shown through Blooms taxonomy by being able to apply concepts to situations.
The response pattern for this discussion was T-s-s-s-T-s-s-s-s-T-s-s-s-T-s-s-T. I think in this situation the teacher could have let students continuing discussing their answers as it is an upper level college course. Also, this discussion is for student reflection and growth, not the teachers. There were 12 student responses, with 2 responses from 1 student; therefore, only 11 students addressed the entire class during the discussion. The total percent of student participant was pretty low, with only 50% of students sharing their responses in the large group discussion. The teacher should have allowed more wait time during discussion before elaborating her opinion, which may have yielded a higher number of students who participated. The longest she waited was 10 seconds. It is often intimidating for a student to share a response after the teacher shares an opinion. Further more, this can also bias the students opinions because they do not want to offer an answer that is from the teachers. Out of this discussion, 66.6% of them were volunteers, which I feel is a decent amount. However, I feel though the ratio of female to male responses was a little too high, which was 4.5 to 1. The males did not seem very excited about this discussion as three of the five were slouched in their chairs most of the time.
The time for this discussion was 16 minutes and 32 seconds. The students talked for 10 minutes and 2 seconds. The teacher talked for 6 minutes and 30 seconds. Although the students talked for a longer total time than the teacher, looking at student individual levels, they participated for a much shorter time. The average student time talking was 55 seconds. This is a short amount of time when comparing it to the teacher talking for 6 minutes and 30 seconds.
When examining the two large group discussions, it becomes quite evident that the teacher dominated the time. She talked for 12 minutes and 43 seconds. The students talked for 12 minutes and 22 seconds. In a discussion based on reflection, which had already been answered by students in a written response, the teacher should have called on more students to share responses. This could have provided diverse answers, which may have inspired more students to volunteer answers. If students realize that there are many correct answers, they feel more confident sharing their personal work. Overall, 63.6% of the students participated in the large group discussion. I feel as though a teachers goal should be 100%. Of the 14 participants, 11 of them were female and 3 of them were male. This means there was a ratio of female to male participants of 3.6 to 1, which is close to the class ratio of 3.4 to 1.
There were strategies I noticed by the teacher that I really liked. The most important one was her high level of energy. It was very evident that the teacher really enjoyed talking about this subject. She seemed very passionate about her ideas and really wanted students to understand them. It was also very obvious that the teacher had vast experience on the subject, as she was very knowledge about many ideas. I also liked how the teacher walked back and forth in front of the class to be near the student talking. When she walked near students they seemed to perk up a little bit more in their seat. It was a simple way of showing that she really was interested in what the students had to say. However, after the student shares his/her answer and the teacher begins to walk away, it may leave the student feeling critical of the answer he/she gave in class. It could hinder that student from further involvement in the discussion. Also, the focus of the answer does not need to be merely directed to the teacher, it should be directed to the entire class. By the teacher walking near the student, the focus turns on the teacher and not the students answer.
Observing this discussion really showed me that I need to make sure I am aware of when a discussion should be teacher-centered and when it should be student-centered. This conversation was very teacher-centered and it did not need to be. Students would have benefited more from hearing everyones opinion rather than teacher repetition. I am going to continue informally observing classroom discussions for techniques I want to employ and those that I do not.
Reference
Sandel, L (Ed.). (2006). Teaching with care. New York, NY: International Reading Association.
Analysis PAGE 10
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