Brion-Meisels, Gretchen

Norm-Setting at the Beginning of the Semester

It is easy to have a “set it and forget it” mentality when it comes to establishing class norms. In this video, Gretchen Brion-Meisels discusses an alternative approach, where class norms are framed as aspirations and goals that need to be affirmed and reaffirmed as the course unfolds. She begins by introducing a key quote that establishes her philosophy on learning, then reminds students about this way of thinking as the semester proceeds. As she explains, she does this because her aim is not to construct norms that “make people happy” but rather to create a classroom culture where...

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Prioritizing unheard voices and perspectives

Classes can easily fall into a routine where the same students talk again and again, yielding an unequal distribution of airtime. Part of this is out of the instructor’s control: some students, whether because of their interests or backgrounds, feel much more comfortable and motivated to openly share their opinions than others. In this video, Gretchen Brion-Meisels reflects on the need to balance these louder voices with voices and perspectives that might otherwise go unheard. This includes giving more space and time for students who rarely volunteer to speak; students who offer...

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Using discussion protocols

Asking students to engage in small-group discussions can feel like a risky pedagogical choice. Are students talking about the content that is assigned? Are these student-led conversations helping students deepen their understanding of the course content? In this video, Gretchen Brion-Meisels explains a discussion protocol that she uses to ensure that students are having generative discussions aligned to the goals of the lesson. In this protocol, students are asked to provide initial reactions to course content before selecting a focal question. They then use a series of guided...

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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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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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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.