How can I encourage productive student debate?

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Episode 109: Scratched University of Maryland

Group work is an important part of many science classes. As instructors we may be hoping that during group work students will engage in productive debate about different science ideas. How can instructors support productive student debate?

July 2, 2018

Pedagogy Content
Facilitating collaboration
Physics Content
Newton's laws
Instructor Interaction
STEM-wide audiences

Lesson Contents (2 MB)Student Handout
Transcript, discussion questions, and problem

(1 MB)Specific Lesson Guide
Facilitator's guide for this lesson

(1 MB)General Facilitator's Guide
Background and best practices

(126 MB)Video
Captioned video


Sample Discussion Prompts

  1. What did you notice in this episode? Talk to your neighbor about what you noticed.

  2. Claudia says, “I don’t think there’s any way you can explain to me how a massive truck is going to have the same forces on it.” She has probably heard explanations before. Why do you think she says this can’t be explained to her?

  3. Would you call this a productive student debate? Is Claudia impeding the group’s intellectual progress, or is she helping to move them forward? Is her contribution positive or negative?

  4. The instructor, Leo, compliments Claudia. What does he compliment her on? Why is it worth complimenting?

  5. Suppose you were Leo and you wanted to address Alan’s complacency, instead of Claudia’s upset. What might you say to Alan?

  6. What does this episode suggest instructors can do to encourage productive student debate?

Collections featuring this lesson

Colorado LA Pedagogy Course21 LESSONS Productive group work5 LESSONS

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