Professional Development Focus Area: Class Discussions

One area that many teachers expressed interest in learning more about was class discussions. We have put together a few resources to aid you in deepening your understanding and use of class discussions - there is more here than you will probably be able to get through. The article on "Wait Time" is one of the essentials. Pick one or more articles for your group's explorations.

Remember the goals for the rest of the year are:
  1. Explore one or more of the focus areas
  2. Have collaborative conversations surrounding these areas - let's begin to articulate what we do well
  3. Try some things in your classroom
  4. Have more discussions in your collaborative groups about how the things you are trying are affecting student learning
  5. Explain what you have done, reflect on the process, describe how it affected student learning, and what other resources you need for professional development - create a page on this website with your group name and document your reflections there by April 21st.


Class discussions are interactions between teachers and students AND students and students. What are the goals of your class discussions?
Here is a look at a traditional very traditional interaction pattern:

Looking at what aspects of class discussions are important for achieving your goals for students:

Is creativity a goal you are trying to promote with discussions:

Encouraging thinking with discussions:

What are the components of effective class discussions?
HRASE Questioning Strategy:

The most basic principle of ALL discussions - Wait Time:

Listening is also key:

How can you assess your own interaction pattern to improve the quality of classroom discussions?
Here is a look at a tool to assess your interaction pattern called SATIC:

Here is how you can use SATIC to change your interaction pattern and improve the quality of classroom discussions:

Looking at your overall interaction fingerprint:

Want to hold your students accountable for participating in discussions? Here is a way that some teachers at Ames High assess student engagement (this was developed by Mike Lazere, Elizabeth Brenneman, and Mike Todd over the past 3 years):