How do you bring closure to a classroom discussion?

21 Aug

According to Stephen Brookfield in his book The Skillful Teacher it is important to end with a debrief that maintains an open-ended quality. Brookfield believes that a good discussion engages students in exploring a diversity of perspectives and that instructors undermine this by announcing “Well, I think we’re all agreed that these are the main points that have emerged today” and then listing things entirely different from their students’ perspective.

Better options for closure might be:

  • Ask 1 or 2 participants to report their thoughts on where the discussion has been
  • List unanswered question raised
  • Identify issues most in need of resolution

Additional Resources / Ideas

Next Question: Rather having students always/only wrap up a discussion by narrating or noting ‘what we learned today in our discussion,’ ask students to volunteer the questions a discussion has raised for them.  This can happen in a popcorn manner – several students from around the room offering a question, some by volunteering and some that you respectfully call on to say more.  It can also happen in small groups with all students offering a question, and sometimes shaping those many questions into one synthesizing or representative question recorded and used in some way you determine.

Discussion Inventory: Tell students you reserve 5-10 minutes at the end of whatever small groups or big group or sliding from small groups to big group discussion you’ve set up – and use these final minutes to bring closure to the class session, to offer your thoughts based on what you’ve heard and where you want discussion to move next (whether that next is in the classroom, in class prep/homework to come, and/or in conversations across students’ daily lives)

As you listen, record what you hear/observe on a notepad, including:

  •   clear errors of fact or understanding,
  •   perspectives that are ignored,
  •   oppositional views that are smothered

Take the  5-10 minutes to articulate your ideas, and ideally leave time for participants to offer ‘the last word’ thought a reflective, self-assessment writing prompt related to their own learning that day.

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