../Images/btn_assessment_over.gif Classroom Interactions Attitude Surveys


A. Questioning Strategies
B. Observations and Note Taking
C. Conferences and Discussions


C. Conferences and Discussions

Another type of classroom interaction and assessment takes place via discussions and conferences. These interactions can be formal (a pre-arranged, weekly conference with each reading group, for example) or they can be informal (impromptu conferences requested by the students or by the teacher, based on the occurrence of specific behaviors).

 Many conferences and discussions, however, are carefully planned by the teacher. Stiggins (2001) offers the following guidelines for class discussions (p. 244-245).

  • Prepare questions or discussion issues in advance to focus sharply on the intended achievement target.
  • Be sure to differentiate between achievement targets that are a matter of the content of students' contributions and targets that are a matter of the form of their communication. Be clear about the meaning of success in both cases.
  • Involve students in preparing for discussions, being sure their questions and key issues are a part of the mix.
  • Rely on debate or other team formats to maximize the number of students who can be directly involved. Pay special attention to involving low achievers.
  • Formalize the discussion format to the extent that different roles are identified, such as moderator, team leader, spokesperson, recorder, and so on, to maximize the number of students who have the opportunity to present evidence of their achievement.
  • Remember, the public display of achievement represents a risk that links that achievement (or the lack thereof) to self-concept. Be aware of those times when that risk must be controlled a bit for student good.
  • Provide those students who have a more reserved personal style or whose cultures disdain public displays of competence with other equally acceptable means of demonstrating achievement.
  • Contexts where achievement information derived from participation in discussion is to influence high-stakes decisions, such as a grades, require dependable written or taped records of performance.

Online discussions have also become feasible for many schools, and they should adhere to many of the same guidelines that are outlined by Stiggins.  Providing a clear structure is especially important for online discussions.  For example, if you want students to post responses or peer reviews to papers, etc., you should provide a list of specific issues for them to address.



Try This

  1. Read the article, Discussion Formats and Activities. Which of the techniques would work best in your classroom?.
  2. Read Controversial Issues in the Classroom. ERIC Digest Note the key considerations for implementing these discussions in the classroom.



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This course was developed in partnership between the Pinellas School
and the Florida Center for Instructional Technology at USF.
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