Education Strategies for Structured Discussion
We have found the use of structured discussion strategies to be a key factor in successfully incorporating bioethics into the classroom. Structured conversation allows for respectful discourse about potentially contentious issues, promotes speaking skills and active listening skills, and provides ways for both talkative and quiet students to have their ideas recognized in a productive way.
All of the strategies below can also be found in our Ethics Primer.
|Discussion Norm-Setting: Teachers and students work together to create an agreed-upon set of discussion ground rules. A set of well-understood discussion norms can serve as a safety net for a difficult discussion; if a discussion gets overly contentious at any time, it is helpful to stop (take a “time out”) and refer to the ground rules as a class to assess if they have been upheld.
|In the Appendix of many of our curricular units, such this document from the Humans
in Research curriculum.
|Chalk Talk: Participants respond silently in writing to pictures, quotes, statements and questions about an issue on large blocks of paper posted around the room. The rules state that the comments should be anonymous and respectful.
|Silent Debate: Two participants debate an issue silently while writing their position and supporting arguments on a piece of paper that gets passed back and forth. After the debate, participants can identify the strongest arguments and justifications made, and analyze what makes them so.
|Socratic Seminar: In this group conversation, participants work together to achieve a deeper understanding about the ideas and values in a text. The students carry the burden of responsibility for the quality of the discussion, and use the text to support their ideas.
|Structured Academic Controversy: Groups of four participants consider pro and con stances on an issue while working through a series of scaffolded steps to come to a decision about the issue. This activity highlights both presentation and listening skills.
|Stakeholder Role-Playing: By taking on stakeholder roles, participants are exposed to a variety of positions on an issue without having to defend the position as his or her own. This exposure may eventually help the participants to formulate their own position.