SoTL SHOWCASE: Incorporating Active Discourse & Facilitating Diverse Student Interactions through Group Work (5 min lightning talk in 90 minute roundtable)

  • Aziza Bayou George Mason University


NOTE: This is a 5-minute presentation that is part of a 90-min SoTL Showcase Lightning Talks and Roundtable Discussion.

My students engage in 5 interactive group work sessions throughout the semester that promote critical thinking, making space for others' thoughts and opinions, and developing listening and speaking skills in the context of informed discourse. They are given a list of question prompts for discussion, and the entire class period is devoted to this assignment.Cultural anthropology is a largely qualitative discipline and these group work sessions enable students to elaborate on their thoughts and opinions in regards to class material, study before quizzes, and interact in a purpose-driven context with other students on a personal level with whom they may not normally interact. The small groups encourage students who do not often speak up to practice sharing their ideas. I actively encourage more extroverted students to make space for those who are more hesitant to talk by leaving pauses between speakers.Students have given positive feedback about these group work assignments every semester. They earn points for this and do not have to turn in any written work (unless absent that day), in order to shift the focus to truly listening and reflective sharing. They relate class material to their own experiences via the question prompts that I hand out, which encourages material retention. The groups are formed randomly each time by numbering off, with groups ranging from 4-6 individuals. Students are encouraged to face one another and make sure they introduce themselves at the beginning. I have changed the grading structure over time on this assignment and can share ideas with other instructors regarding evaluation of this type of group work.

Participants will be able to incorporate their own group work assignments into their classes, gaining insight on how to structure a list of discussion questions and guidelines. Participants will learn how to promote diverse students to interact in a way that makes the learning experience more meaningful, creates classroom community and rapport, and aids in material retention.

THURSDAY 1:00pm-2:30pm SoTL Showcase: Lightning Talks & Roundtable