Student-Led Discussion Topics
We will choose five topics that are open for discussion and controversy. You will be divided into five groups (about four students/group) and each group will be responsible for leading the class in a discussion of this topic. Past topics have included: Why do we have grades? Firearms & Hunting, Academic Dishonesty.
I will provide you with some reading material about each issue.
It is the job of everyone in the class to:
; read what I provide and take notes on it
; participate fully in the discussion in class
It is the additional job of the group leading the discussion to:
; look up additional relevant information to bring to class
; meet outside of class to identify the important points surrounding the issue
; plan how the members of your group will organize the discussion
; plan an activity to get other class members involved and willing to share their opinions
; assign roles to each group member so everyone knows what to do
; carry out these plans in class
For example, let’s say that Ann, Erin, Dave, and Chris are responsible for leading a discussion about campus gun policies. I might provide you with a synopsis of campus gun policies across the nation and paper that discusses the incidence of gun usage by college students. Everyone would read these papers and come up with very thoughtful opinions and questions to bring to class.
However, Ann, Erin, Dave, and Chris would meet some night and look up other information such as an editorial piece by someone who wants guns banned on all campuses or who thinks there should be no restrictions on gun possession on campuses, or they might interview fellow students who have guns to find out how often and why they use them.
They would then come up with what they thought were the major points, such as: 1. What are the constitutional rights of students residing on a campus? 2. What is the incidence of gun violence on college campuses and how much of this violence is perpetrated by students with legally owned guns? And, is there a difference in the incidence of gun violence on campuses that allow guns vs. those that don’t? 3. Should there be any
restrictions other than state laws on gun possession? 4. If gun possession is allowed on a campus and there is an incident, who should be held liable?
The group would also come up with some type of activity to get the discussion started. For example, they might set up a game show with some questions about guns that would include some shocking statistics, or they might do some active survey of class opinions. They would also determine which group member was going to be responsible for which part of the leadership (everyone has to do something!). They might assign each person to be responsible for introducing and leading one of the major points or they might have two members lead the activity and two work together on leading the discussion.
We will begin each discussion by having all members of the class write a brief statement about their position on the issue. The class will then be turned over to the group leading the discussion. At the end, each class member will write a new statement about their position after having listened to what others had to say. Sometimes you may change your position, sometimes you may not. It isn’t the point to necessarily change your mind, only to develop
and clarify your thoughts.
You will be graded on your effort both in leading and participating. I will be the one keeping track of your participation, but in addition to my observations on your leadership, your group members will also grade you. When your group has finished its job, I will give each group member a form to fill out that will look something like the one below. I will take into consideration your group members’ comments when assigning grades.
Group Member Name Yourself
On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being
highest), how much effort did this
group member put into preparing
for the discussion?
On a scale of 1-10, how effective
was this group member at
delivering his/her assigned tasks in
What percentage of the work was
done by this group member? (note:
When you add up all of the
numbers in this row, they should
add to 100% unless someone else
did the work for you.)