Using Boards to organize and structure class thinking

    Chalkboards may not be the most advanced instructional tool in today’s classroom, but they are very useful for tracking and organizing student comments on the fly. In this video, Julie Battilana describes how she enters each case discussion having already thought through how and where she will track her students’ comments on the nine chalkboards in her classroom. This planning reaps dividends for students who describe how they use notes on the boards to keep track of their classmates’ points of view and capture the key ideas and frameworks presented during class in...

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    Introducing frameworks to connect case specifics to broader concepts

    One reason students enjoy learning through the case method is that each case reads like a unique story. Cases typically present a case protagonist embedded in a complex environment and pressed to make a decision in the face of challenges and uncertainty. Though the details of the case give it depth and interest, instructors frequently introduce frameworks during case discussions. Frameworks build students’ understanding of the case at hand while helping them generalize case specifics into conceptual knowledge. In this video, Julie Battilana describes the “Agitator,...

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    Referring back to student comments as discussion touchstones

    Over the course of a 90-minute whole class discussion, it can be easy to forget what was said ten minutes ago, let alone an hour ago. In this video, Julie Battilana describes how she listens carefully to student comments and then refers back to them to highlight complementaries, acknowledge a disagreement, or emphasize a particularly insightful point. By strategically referring back to these discussion touchstones, Battilana helps students develop a mental model of the class conversation and its contours.

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    Engaging in extended dialogue with students

    Facilitating a strong case discussion involves not only asking students questions but carefully listening to their responses and following up. In this video, Julie Battilana describes how she frequently stays with a student after asking them a question and poses repeated follow-ups to ensure that both she and the rest of the class have fully understood the student’s thinking. Though being questioned by your professor may sound intimidating at first, Battilana uses this move to convey that she is deeply interested in and attentive to students’ ideas -- that she is “...

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    Probing student disagreement to achieve deeper understanding

    Cases are designed so that students synthesize complex information, analyze potential paths forward, and then take a stand on what the protagonist should do next. Throughout this process, students will likely disagree with each other. Rather than glossing over student disagreement, Julie Battilana describes how she highlights differences in opinion and then pushes the class to do additional analysis so they better understand why they disagree. Digging into these disagreements rather than shying away from them ultimately provides, Battilana explains, “a wonderful...

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    Using movement to increase intimacy, energy, and visibility

    Keeping students engaged in a large, lengthy class is challenging for any instructor. To help her students stay interested and focused, Julie Battilana channels her vigorous and infectious enthusiasm into each class session. In this video, Battilana describes how she uses movement to keep the class energy high, to connect personally with students, and to ensure that no students stay off her radar in class. The result is a non-stop, energetic case session that flies by for her students.

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    Tracking student participation to ensure all students contribute

    In a fast-paced case discussion, it can be easy to lose track of the students who have not recently spoken up. In order to make sure that all students’ voices are heard in her classroom, Julie Battilana tracks student participation and then looks for the hands of students who have not spoken in the past three classes. To support students who may feel less confident speaking up in class, she also employs “warm calls,” giving students a heads up that she is going to call on them later in class. These strategies ensure that by the end of the course, all students have...

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    Being transparent about instructional moves

    Your instructional decision-making doesn’t need to be a secret. Sharing your reasons for making certain instructional moves with your students can enhance their classroom experiences by helping them become more metacognitive about their learning. In this video, Tina Grotzer models being transparent about instructional moves with her students, showing how this communication is a crucial component of her course. 

    Getting students mentally ready for class

    Students who are mentally prepared for class and know what to expect from the day’s schedule are able to be more attentive and focused on course material. In this video, Tina Grotzer demonstrates different ways to help students feel present in the classroom and allocate their mental energy to the day’s learning.  

    Giving students enough space and time to reflect

    Giving students substantial time during class to pause, reflect on, and verbally process their understanding can help them consolidate their learning and generate new ideas. These practices can also help teaching teams stay abreast of how students’ thinking is changing. In this video, Tina Grotzer explains how and why she gives students the space and time to reflect in class.  

    Using jigsaws to facilitate small-group discussions

    “Jigsaw” discussions are an efficient and student-centered way to get your class familiar with many different texts or materials. By dividing students into groups that each work with different content, then having individuals from each group teach that content to their peers, you can encourage students to build on each others’ ideas and find patterns throughout their course content. In this video, Tina Grotzer describes how she uses jigsaws to facilitate in-depth discussion in her classroom. 

    Engaging with small groups to deepen discussions

    It can be tempting to sit back and relax as an instructor when students are engaged in small group discussions. Doing so, however, keeps you from learning how students are understanding and engaging with content. Small-group discussion is an opportune time for you and your teaching team to get to know, compliment, complicate, and challenge your students’ thinking. In this video, Tina Grotzer discusses what she thinks about as she circulates and listens in on her students’ small group discussions. 

    Providing multiple ways for students to engage in class discussion

    Class discussions don’t only have to take place within the four walls of the classroom. Establishing resources and platforms to continue discussions outside of class can help students extend their learning and feel more engaged with your course. In this video, Tina Grotzer discusses how she uses online discussion boards and in-person meetings to make sure all of her students get the chance to have their questions answered and feel seen as members of the class community. 

    Activating Prior Knowledge: Connecting students' experiences to class concepts

    Prompting students to reflect on how the course material relates to their own lives can help them develop a deeper understanding of your subject. Particularly when students are reading large amounts of theoretical material or research findings, it can be difficult to pause and connect that work to past experiences or future plans. In this video, Tina Grotzer models how she builds in moments for her students to relate the course to their life experiences in order to deepen their understanding. 

    Shaking up the classroom arrangement

    Where students sit in your classroom can have a big impact on their interactions with each other, and by extension, their learning. Moreover, seating patterns among students can solidify very quickly, making dialogic possiblities all the more difficult. In this video, Tina Grotzer explains why she has students change where they sit at key points in the semester and how these changes affect classroom climate.

    Connecting forward: Applying concepts beyond the classroom

    By asking students to apply or search out examples of course concepts beyond the classroom, you can help them see how class content tangibly impacts the world around them. In this video, Tina Grotzer demonstrates how and why she asks students to take their learning beyond their weekly lecture.  

    Using Research to Set Discussion Norms

    While many classrooms set norms and expectations at the start of the semester, grounding this exercise in relevant research can foster more intentional learning communities while building connections between course content and classroom culture. Norm-setting with your students can also be a great opportunity to work collaboratively with them make decisions about your class structures and your teaching. In this video, Tina Grotzer explains her practice of setting discussion norms by using research in the first days of class.

    Mixing students up in small discussion groups

    It is easy for students to get into a routine of where they sit and who they talk to. While this might build a sense of familiarity among some students, it naturally limits the sharing of perspectives and building of community among all. To ensure that all students have opportunities to hear and learn from each other, Gretchen Brion-Meisels intentionally mixes up students within classes, using a range of grouping prompts across the semester. In this video, Brion-Meisels and her students talk about the value and efficiency of using fun prompts to quickly create diverse groupings.

    Fostering an environment where everyone is a teacher and learner

    In this video, Gretchen Brion-Meisels reflects on the various roles that she plays while checking in with students in small group discussions. Depending on what she hears from students, she either digs in as an active participant or listens in and prompts students with an additional question before moving on. Regardless of what she does to keep students’ discussions generative, Brion-Meisels is committed to demonstrating humility in her approach to teaching. She actively acknowledges and models uncertainty in her own scholarship and practice which in turn encourages students to...

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    Making thinking visible

    While we know that understanding is developed through deep and involved discussions of course content, many students benefit from additional written and visual scaffolding. In this video, Gretchen Brion-Meisels discusses how she uses graphic organizers, both for small-group discussions and in whole class share-outs. These organizers help students keep track of their learning and “hold onto” key ideas they generate in class. In small-groups, Brion-Meisels makes these graphic organizers optional, letting students decide how much they need to use them in order to have generative discussions...

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