Use group discussion to support blended learning goals

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Group discussions build community, increase knowledge construction and sharing, and develop valuable communication skills for students. Unfortunately, traditional live discussions can also leave voices unheard. Traditional discussion may also create anxiety for students who need more time to consider responses or who struggle to participate in fast-paced, in-class discussions. Modifying group discussions to better meet the needs of all students increases engagement and breadth of contribution.

Teachers can modify group discussions to meet the needs of all students by implementing a technology-supported group discussion technique. By modifying group discussions with technology supports, teachers are better able to scaffold models of question-and-response, fact-based response, and socially conscious conversation skills into a group discussion. Traditional group discussions often have class-developed norms, but it can be difficult to filter on those norms in a fast-paced live discussion.

Here are three ways teachers can implement a technology-supported group discussion within a blended learning structure:

  • Flipped Socratic seminar
  • Tracked Socratic seminar
  • Teams posts and channels

Flipped Socratic seminar

Socratic seminar is one of the most popular structures of group discussion. Flipped Socratic seminar has specific guidelines and requires student knowledge creation. Despite its strengths, flipped Socratic seminar can be overwhelming to students who need more processing time and can be unwieldy in large groups. Teachers can create a flipped seminar experience by using Flipgrid to create the starting topic, set norms, and explain assessment protocols. Flipgrid seminars enable greater confidence and well-constructed responses because students can respond at their own pace and place. Discussion is a form of both formative and summative assessment and as such requires feedback to fully integrate into learning objectives and measurement. Teachers can give direct feedback to students from Flipgrid using either video comments or an attached rubric.

Tracked Socratic seminar

If teachers wish to increase engagement and understanding in an in-class live discussion, they may choose to develop a process to track discussion. For example, choose some students to be seminar trackers instead of speakers. These trackers would use a diagram of the discussion in OneNote to add notes at each speaker's name. These notes provide reference for later studying. This process increases accountability for students who aren't actively participating in the discussion. This model also ensures everyone has a role in the class experience.

Teams posts and channels

Asynchronous groups discussions can be hosted directly in Teams. The discussion can be on a post thread or within a Channel, depending on the level of discretion a teacher wishes to have between discussion topics. Traditional online discussion boards have been popular modes of asynchronous discussion for many years, but the benefit of integrating these discussions into a class team is high. Because the discussion is housed within the team, cognitive load of transitioning between apps is reduced. Teachers can also create an assignment with an attached rubric that links to the discussion post or the channel discussion. Linking ensures that assessment and feedback are built into the discussion experience. Linking also ensures all objectives are clear for students as they create their responses.