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This book is written for those who value collaborative inquiry, open-ended questions, and student-centered classroom discourse. Leading student-centered discussions is natural for some people and not-so-natural for others. The teacher's role is more than following a set protocol or asking a series of questions. Like much of teaching, leading a discussion falls somewhere between science, art, and magic as the facilitator faces a constant stream of decisions based on ever-changing student behavior.
This book is a model for text-based discussions and provides a framework to make decisions that lead to student-centered conversations focused on the understanding of ideas. The book is divided into three sections. The first is for teachers new to student-centered discussions and describes the "science" of leading a discussion: the basic elements of student-centered, text-based discussions, and how to plan for them. The second delves into the "art" and "magic" of leading discussions and provides a framework for making decisions during discussions as the conversation develops. The third section offers a rich collection of strategies for problem-solving when discussions aren't going well and to guide the reader toward continuous improvement of facilitation skills. The book's decision-making framework stresses safety, authentic participation, challenge, and ownership, all of which will help teachers move from a basic level of understanding of discussion facilitation skills to a deepened understanding of the discussion process and the teacher's role within it.
Michael S. Hale has served as a teacher, principal, professional developer, professor, university administrator, and educational software executive. His passion for student inquiry has resulted in many years of experience with participant-centered discussions in a wide variety of settings. A National Paideia Faculty member, he has worked with many teachers and students to develop the knowledge and skills to engage in idea- and text-based conversations. He currently spends most of his days as Vice President for Curriculum Consulting with VitalSource Technologies in Raleigh, NC, where he works with educators to transform didactic materials into more interactive digital formats. His formal education includes a B.A. in Philosophy from Auburn University and a M.A. and Ph.D in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of North Carolina. Elizabeth A. City has served as a teacher, principal, and instructional coach, primarily in North Carolina and Massachusetts. In addition to enjoying countless student-centered discussions in her own classroom, as a National Paideia Faculty member, she has worked with teachers and students across the country as they have learned to facilitate and participate in text-based conversations. Much of Liz's current work centers on supporting principals and teachers in creating collaborative communities where rich dialogue and learning for both adults and children is the norm. She is a member of the Senior Faculty of Boston's School Leadership Institute, where she teaches courses in using data, learning and teaching, and professional development to Boston Public School Principal Fellows. She is currently working on her doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.