Facilitating Discussions

Powerful class discussions may seem natural, even spontaneous, but they are typically the result of careful planning, clear intentions, and concrete strategies. From the physical layout of a classroom to the skillful wording of that genuinely provocative question, pedagogic considerations abound. Although facilitators’ styles can range from subtle to direct, effective instructors tend to strike a balance between organic conversation and focused discourse.

 

Facilitating Discussions videos are organized into three submodules: Framing the Discussion, Balancing and Pacing, and Responding to Students. Classroom footage, student testimonials, and interviews with featured faculty present a range of moves designed to lead more thought-provoking, equitable, structured, student-centered discussions.

Featured Faculty

  • The work of teachers is making a thousand mental calculations at any given moment. It's oftentimes kind of like the role of a conductor, but there's there's no wrong notes in a classroom. There can be dissonant notes.

    - Christina Villarreal

  • There’s never going to be a perfect class where I can just fade into the background, and students can all talk amongst themselves. But the best classes are those that get closest to that.

    - Timothy McCarthy

  • When we produce something, we take ownership of it, we care more about it, and we invest ourselves in it further. So even when you’re just producing words in a class, they’re your words.

    - Jane Mansbridge

  • I want students to build bridges from what they can do now to what is on the opposite shore. With some students, you can build the bridge pretty far back from the shore, for some you've got to get very close to it, and for others you have to say, “Here's what the middle of the river looks like.”

    - Todd Rakoff

J. Mansbridge

Jane Mansbridge

Charles F. Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Value

STUDENT GROUP

Graduate

SCHOOL

Harvard Kennedy School of Government

COURSE

Democratic Theory

COURSE DETAILS

Fall 2016, ~30 students

T. McCarthy

Timothy Patrick McCarthy

Lecturer on History and Literature

STUDENT GROUP

Undergraduate/Graduate

SCHOOL

Harvard College

COURSE

Stories of Slavery & Freedom

COURSE DETAILS

Fall 2016, 16 students

 

T. Rakoff

Todd Rakoff

Byrne Professor of Administrative Law

STUDENT GROUP

Graduate

SCHOOL

Harvard Law School

COURSE

Legislation & Regulation 

COURSE DETAILS

Fall 2016, 80 students, first-year requisite

C. Villarreal

Christina “V” Villarreal

Visiting Lecturer on Education

STUDENT GROUP

Graduate

SCHOOL

Harvard Graduate School of Education

COURSE

Ethnic Studies

COURSE DETAILS

Fall 2016, 23 students