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Discussion Papers

Discussion Papers


Students do not always read assigned materials well enough to discuss them thoughtfully in class. Many teachers successfully address this problem by requiring students to turn in some kind of written response to the readings on the day of the discussion. These papers ensure preparation and provide "jumping off points" for discussion. In this way, they require students to begin the critical thinking process on their own by analyzing and reflecting upon what they have read at least somewhat before class begins.

The teaching tip

These papers should be short--around a single page--for two reasons. First, the focus is on stimulating quality of thought, not quantity of language. Second, to prevent these papers from becoming instructionally-hollow "busy work," they must be responded to by the teacher in some way, and responding to a volume of daily papers takes time

Example: QQTP

The Questions, Quotations, and Talking Points (QQTP) method is a daily response paper to be written about assigned readings between classes. For this activity, students complete a one page typed paper consisting of three parts:

  • a question they have based on the readings,
  • a quotation from the readings they find compelling or controversial, and
  • a short outline of main ideas the student will use as "talking points" in class discussion.

By preparing in this way, students all come to class with something to say, and even if no one volunteers, you can ask any one of them "So, what was one of your Talking Points?" and be confident that they will have something at least somewhat thoughtful to say.

From: Connor-Greene, P. (2005, June). Fostering meaningful classroom discussion: Student-generated questions, quotations, and talking points. Teaching of Psychology, 32(3), 173-175.

Example: Think sheets

Think Sheets are used to stimulate students mental elaboration upon a piece of subject matter, and link it to their own lives.

For this activity, students complete a one page, typed paper that does not summarize or critique the assigned reading, but rather explores what the readings made them think in terms of their own experience, goals, or beliefs.

The purpose is for the students to share with you what the readings made them think about beyond the readings themselves, and is therefore a much more personalized set of thoughts.

From: UT Professor of Architecture Lawrence Speck