Discussion Analysis Assignment

Good discussion leading is a central part of good English teaching. This assignment is for you to observe and analyze a discussion of at least twenty minutes in length that you were responsible for leading during the student-led portion of the class.  Your discussion leading will be recorded using the outstanding, multicamera recording system in our high-tech classroom.

(You will need to inform me several days in advance of when you want the recording made so that the lab tech can be scheduled.)  Before you work on analyzing your own discussion, I urge you to practice using the observation tools that you learn about as you observe other teacher- or professor-led discussions.

Be sure you are really observing a large group discussion, not a lecture, small group, read around, or some other activity. (Of course some discussions may have lecture involved, but what you are looking for is a discussion where the teacher (you) at least appears to want to have student involvement.)

As you observe and write up your observations, transcribe as best you can exactly what the teacher (you) says (say) and watch carefully what all individual students are doing. Be precise and specific. You are looking for data that is as objective as possible. Directly quote teacher statements.

Do not be sloppy or biased with your observations and do not jump to conclusions. Don't talk about "most students" but instead, for example, "14 of 22 students." Don't say, "the teacher talked for a long time" but instead "the teacher talked for 8 mins, 30 seconds." Don't say "wait time was average" but "wait time was 10 seconds, 8 seconds, or 2 seconds." Don't say "the students were disengaged" but describe specific observable activities by specific numbers of students that give you the impression that those particular students were disengaged.

Collecting objective data from the discussion is the vital first part of the assignment. It will allow you to make a careful and thoughtful analysis, and for your reader to evaluate your analysis. In addition to the narrative of your analysis, include at least one page of specific data you have collected.

The write up should include lots of specific data followed by analysis of that data. What does the data you gather about students and the teacher seem to indicate about the instruction that is happening in the classroom? What specific things could the teacher do to address the data you collect and issues you observe?

One the most important considerations is how many and what percent of the students participated. You will want to write down exactly what the teacher is doing to effect the level of participation and analyze how the teacher could change his or her instruction to increase participation.

Your comments on this data will be important, but also write about the whole discussion, painting a full picture of the discussion and giving specific comments about what you have learned from the analysis, how you can improve your discussion leading.

Closely examine the suggested data collection methods on the discussion analysis web page. On this page there are twelve general areas for analyzing discussion; a good way to organize your analysis is to write something about each of those general headings. (Of course you are not expected to gather data about all of the areas.)

Your analysis should be at least five pages in length (in addition to the data collected) and draw on what we have studied about leading discussion.

To understand how to do this assignment you can study the sample from Michael Compton (Fall 2014) who used the classroom technology. You can also look at a couple of previous examples from students analyzing other teachers before we had the room technology: Karen Brady (Spring 2008 -- this electronic version of Karen's paper does not have an attached data sheet, but it does include specific data and analysis) and Adam Limban (Fall 2008).

Created by: allen.webb@wmich.edu
Revised Date: 12/14