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Motivating Discussion by Female Students

The following is a compilation of messages about how to encourage discussion 
by female students.  The messages appeared on WMST-L in December 1993.  
(Please be aware that by now, many e-mail addresses have changed.)  For 
additional WMST-L files now available on the Web, see the WMST-L File List.
Date: Thu, 16 Dec 1993 15:46:20 EST
From: Rosa Maria Pegueros <PEGUEROS @ URIACC.URI.EDU>
Subject: Motivating women students
I am not sure if this is entirely within the limits of the definition of
this list, but I hope it is. I realize that folks are very busy with
the holidays, so an immediate response is not required, but every thoughtful
response will be appreciated.
I teach Latin American history in a state university. I was a teaching
associate as a graduate student at UCLA before this, and an instructor
in a very good junior college. Everywhere I've taught, I've encountered the
same problem: The women are much harder to draw out that the men. I have taken
great care to make sure that they--men and women--have time to answer, encour-
aging them to give thoughtful rather than instant answers. I have often waited
for women's hands to go up before calling on the first trigger-reflex male
who responded. This semester, I had a debate (on NAFTA), and most of the men
were actively involved while the women took more retiring roles. This is the
first time I have had so many athletes--men and women--in my classes and I
wonder if that has some bearing on it.
I would appreciate hearing about successful strategies people have used
to reach their women students.
Rosa Maria Pegueros
Dept. of History
University of Rhode Island
Date: Thu, 16 Dec 1993 16:04:46 -0600
From: kim Loutzenhiser Pohle <LOUT2KK @ SLUVCA.SLU.EDU>

Subject: Re: Motivating women students
Rosa (and others interested)... you are not alone in the problems you
experienced in the classroom.  Deborah Tannen wrote an article in the
Chronicle several years ago on men and women in the class room.  If
I had the cite I would give it.  Her suggestion was to break the group
down into small discussion groups, give time to discuss, and than have
a spokesperson from the group report on the groups findings.  I have tried
this and this worked.... Kim Lout2kk  @  sluvca.slu.edu
Date: Thu, 16 Dec 1993 17:07:27 -0600
From: Cynthia Freeland <PHIL7 @ JETSON.UH.EDU>
Subject: Re: Motivating women students
Re:  motivating women students:  well, I'm not sure I would call it
"motivating."  Maybe, "encouraging," "facilitating," "making space for,"
etc.  I too have thought about this and tried various things.  (I remember
when I was one of them, scared, in the back row, 20 years ago.)  The
small group method does seem to work; I just extrapolated it this semester
from a feminist philosophy course where it has always worked well (with
25 women and 5 men) to an advanced philosophy course with the oppostie
(opposite) statistics (25 men and 5 women).  It met a lot of resistance
at first and then began to work and, almost magically, the 5 quiet
women began to talk in class (all of them).  I require them to have rotating
'reporters' after their small group work.
In larger classes (of up to 120) I've sometimes just said "Well, I'd like
to hear from a woman to get another point of view on this."  Or I just
sometimes watch faces and (you can tell from their facial reactions something
of what they're thinking) I say "Candice, I can tell you disagree, why don't
you tell us why."  A
 few times this will make someone uncomfortable so I
don't push it, but often the person will speak right up.
Now, a related problem:  I have had real, and perhaps similar but distinct,
difficulties getting other students to talk in class, for example, Asian
students, some of whom tell me afterwards that they are not socialized to
express their views in this way.  So, suggestions on this would be appreci-
ated too.
Cynthia Freeland
phil7  @  jetson.uh.edu
Date: Thu, 16 Dec 1993 18:23:36 EST
Subject: Re: Motivating women students
Hi:  I am a graduate student in an Episcopal seminary where feminist
liberation theology is the primary pedagogy.  About 60 percent of the
students are women, which helps, and of those, about half come to
my school specifically for feminist liberation theology studies.
We often are faced with the same problem you describe.  The small group
idea is good, though I suggest that you are careful about gender distribution
in the groups.  Also, if all discussion is handled that way, I think
students stop thinking the professor will know if they have prepared for
class or not.  This leaves a heavy burdgen on those who do prepare.
The most effective way, I think, to address this problem is to talk about it.
I think that women and men need to know how their learning is affected
by the presence of the other.
Not only does such discussion help to change the dynamic, it teaches a great
deal about gender differences.  Once this dialogue is opened, you can tell
the men to wait.  I don't think this is wrong.  It is also true of
ethnic, nationality and class divisions.  It works on all fronts.
Date: Thu, 16 Dec 1993 23:38:28 EST
From: Beatrice Kachuck <BEABC @ CUNYVM.BITNET>
Subject: Re: Motivating women students
classes of 120 students seem guaranteed to silence most of them! i wouldn't
like to teach that way. maybe a feminist project in the academy would be a
campaign agains large classes.  meanwhile: i've also had students from diverse
backgrounds reluctant to speak in class, asians, jamaicans, and yes, native new
yorkers.  sometimes it helps them to get started by asking for something they
read, an impersonal bit of info; sometimes an introductory "can you think of ..
. a different point of view of example" helps; sometimes, having everyone jot
down a response, then calling on a reticent student is useful, or letting her
know in advance that you'll be calling on her for something specific helps.
and some just need to listen and mull things over.  
beatrice  beabc  @  cunyvm.cuny.edu
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1993 09:53:17 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Motivating women students
While we're on the subject of small group discussions as a means of drawing out
more retiring students, let me add a few words about when they don't work and
perhaps why (is it the end of the term retrospective that brings out all these
issues?  Having just finished I need to talk about what didn't work?).
I have had almost no success with small groups.  Students seem universally to
resist them, seem to find them pointless, and, even when I give them very
specific instructions and tasks, seem to wander off course entirely or mouth
generalities.  I don't know why this happens.  I have already learned that you
need to give a finite period of time, very specific tasks (i.e. 4 specific
questions to answer), and have them appoint a recorder to speak for them.  But
somehow they seem unable to create within their groups any authority for the
discourse that goes on.  I finally abandoned the small groups after about a
month this semester and tried something new.
This was a suggestion made by a student in another smaller class. It's called
the fishbowl which makes it sound very threatening but my students seemed
to love it.  You chose four students (I rotated them around through volunteers
and by moving around the roll arbitrarily).  They sit in a circle in the middle
of the classroom while the other students sit in a larger circle around them (I
suppose you could do this in various ways; this just happens to be the physical
makeup of my classroom).  The four students begin a discussion of the material
or of specific questions etc.  I usually give them about 10 minutes to talk and
then they can take comments questions discussion from the larger group.  We
generate some very interesting discussion this way and the quieter members of
the class at least on specific days got the chance to voice their views.  Iwas
surprised by how many very quiet students actually volunteered to be "in the
fishbowl" because it guaranteed them a chance to speak and to direct the
A distinction that Tannen makes between high involvement speakers and high
consideration speakers also bears on this conversation.  I really felt this
distinction this term when I had one class of high involvement speakers (people
who really like to talk, to interrupt, and to be animated) and one class of
high consideration speakers (people who like to listen carefully and respond
slowly).  The class dynamics were very different in the two classes. I always
thought the high involvement class (I am a very high involvement speaker) was
much more fun.  It was always animated with lots happening, everybody happily
chiming in. The other class always seemed awkward to me (high consideration
speakers make me very nervous); yet their writing was incredibly smart. I knew
they could do it, but it just wasn't their speech style.  I'm sure that this
distinction is very culturally bound and that may explain the reticence of
Asian students for instance. It is not entirely a gender difference (and
Tannen recognizes this, partly I think because she is a high involvement
speaker);it probably has much more to do with the kind of family you grew up in
and its attitudes toward speech.
Sorry to go on so long; end of term post-mortem and all that.
Happy holidays (or at least restful) to all.
                                    (o o)
|        Laurie Finke, Women's and Gender Studies, Kenyon College            |
|                  Gambier, OH 43022       phone: 614-427-5276               |
| home: 614-427-3428, P.O. Box 731 mail: FinkeL
@  Kenyon.Edu | +----------------------------------------------------------------------------+
 () () 
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1993 10:03:11 LCL
Subject: Small Group Discussions - Good Story
I sometimes worry about small group discussions being *perceived* as
"not valuable" by students, or at least by some students, who seem to
think that they "aren't learning anything" -- or at least that "the
teacher isn't teaching anything" -- if the teacher isn't lecturing &
providing a set of lecture notes and/or if the students have to listen
to, & pay attention to, each other.
So I always spend time *in class* talking about the reasons for why I
use that classroom technique (small group discussions), and the
reasons that I think it produces a superior learning experience to the
one(s) that I'm electing not to use (traditional lecture, etc.).  I
also talk about what "counts" as "active participation" -- and I make
it clear that talking, per se, is *not* what is valued, but that
"being engaged, both with the course materials and with the learning
processes of themselves and others in the classroom" is what matters.
I point out that this can include "actively listening" and "giving
attentive consideration to questions produced by others" whether or
not one choses to speak up, oneself.  But I also point out that this
includes "bringing one's own questions, confusions, concerns and
insights into the discussion" with the caveat that leaving *oneself*
out is not really a way of being well engaged.
Anyway, I wanted to share a neat thing that occured spontaneously in
my feminist ethics class this semester.  About 2/3 of the way through
the class, we read an article by Alison Jaggar which was just a sort
of a summary, outlining the state of the field (feminist ethics)
curently, and also pointing to some of the issues and questions which
are still problematic.  Well, the students' response to the article
was kind of like, "Gee, we already knew that!"  And in fact, it was
true -- the students themselves, by that point in the class, had
raised virtually *all* the same points and issues that Alison Jaggar
had made in the article.  So I used it as an opportunity to give a
little spontaneous speech about how I always *KNEW* that students
given the opportunities to think and wonder and read and discuss,
would come to the same conclusions as the "Professionals" in the field,
and that that was why I was so comfortable with the small group
discussion format rather than feeling the need to cling to a lecture
On the last "Process Day" (when we talk about the internal processes of the
class and its dynamics -- usually there are about 4/semester in discussion
oriented classes), *many* students pointed to that day and that experience
as a moment of epistemic empowerment - when they actually saw for themselves
that *THEY* and *THEIR PEERS* really *could* be a valuable source of knowledge
and learning.
Personally, I thought that was pretty cool.  :-)
     ____       Ruth Ginzberg                    /^ ^\
    (  / \      Philosophy Department           / 0 0 \
    /\/  @@___  Wesleyan University             V\ Y /V
   /        __O Middletown, CT  06459-0081       / - \
  /\\    ,,,,'  (203) 347-9411 x2263             |    \
    \\___/      rginzberg  @  eagle.wesleyan.edu     || (__V
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1993 12:18:00 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Motivating women students
>classes of 120 students seem guaranteed to silence most of them! i wouldn't
>like to teach that way. maybe a feminist project in the academy would be a
>campaign agains large classes.  meanwhile: i've also had students from diverse
>backgrounds reluctant to speak in class, asians, jamaicans, and yes, native new
>yorkers.  sometimes it helps them to get started by asking for something they
>read, an impersonal bit of info; sometimes an introductory "can you think of...
>a different point of view of example" helps; sometimes, having everyone jot
>down a response, then calling on a reticent student is useful, or letting her
>know in advance that you'll be calling on her for something specific helps.
>and some just need to listen and mull things over.  
>beatrice  beabc  @  cunyvm.cuny.edu

  In addition, you might think of trying cooperative groups (like buzz
groups, but not really) to get things going. You need to plan so that each
student has a responsiblity in the group, selected by them, so that they do
particiapte, but not in a large setting.  It takes some time to paln but well
worth it after it is learned.  You can swtich to coopertive learning a some
points knowing that students have skill with  the process.  There are books and
articles on the strategy.  Look up in BIP or ERIC. Good luck. Ruth.
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1993 09:11:30 -0800 (PST)
From: Theresa Thompson <60840883 @ WSUVM1.BITNET>
Subject: Motivating women students
Rosa asked for successful strategies to increase classroom responses from women
students.  I find the best way to get women to respond is to learn their names
and call on them specifically.  A difficult task in a large classroom, but the
studies show women do not respond as often to questions addressed generally to
the class.  Another way is to specifically ask the women to respond--a bit heav
y-handed and the men get upset at times and call one a (dare I say it) feminist
, but sexism can be undone  by directing questions only at men  as well.  Anoth
er aproach I have used successfully is to gear my material toward the women stu
dents very specifically, and only more generally for the more-likely to respond
male students.  Women, as Robin (Name is missing from my memory!!!) points out,
are trained to be more passive in the classroom from kindergarten up.  So it do
esn't seem too unfair to silence (only partially and only temporarily) more agg
ressive male (or female for that matter) students, in order to let the quiet, l
ess aggressive women (or men) speak up.  I had to qualify this response in term
s of gender because students from non-professional households of all sexes tend
to be silent in class--the schools in bad neighborhoods tend not to encourage a
ny discussion...and when these students get to college, the more aggressively t
rained children of the middle and upper middle (and so on up) income families w
ill dominate the classroom regardless of their gender identifications.
(What is Robin's last name????  I have her book at home and her new book, I believe, 
is called the Mismeasure of Woman?)
<60840883  @  wsuvm1.csc.wsu.edu>
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1993 12:18:12 -0500
From: Shauna Manning <shauna @ UMBSKY.CC.UMB.EDU>
Subject: small group discussions, etc.
Just wanted to add a few comments to the dialogue...
Regarding the professor who had trouble with small group discussions
i.e.,  the students not becoming involved, not raising questions,
etc.--could age have anything to do with that experience?  Was this
by any chance a class of students in their late teens or very early
twenties?  I ask because I have seen/experienced small group discussions
in classes of *young* students that were not at all successful.
However, (especially at UMass Boston, which is a VERY multicultural
commuter school with student average age around 30) small group dis-
cussions are extremely successful.  Often students (and professors)
learn more from other students than the material!
The fishbowl idea sounds very interesting--I have not heard of
that technique.
Also,  I enjoyed Ruth's story about her class coming up with the
same ideas in discussion prior to reading another professional's
article.  I would like to add that I'll bet reaching those conclusions
through their own independent discussions made much more of a lasting
impression on the students than if they had just read the material as
merely *someone else's ideas.*
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1993 12:39:00 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Motivating women students
I think the reason students do not like the "group" work is that they do not
feel it "counts".  Lectures are serious stuff and count, but not other
students(for gardes that is>.  We have to do something that allows students
to value what they say as much as what we say.
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1993 12:42:04 -0500 (EST)
From: Margaret Susan Thompson <THOMPSON @ MAXWELL.SYR.EDU>
Subject: motivating discussion, etc.
Two techniques that have worked relatively well for me in smaller
classes (c. 30 students):
    1. Scheduling debates between "teams".  First, everyone is on one
of 2 or 3 teams; students draw lots to determine which team they're
on and each team is assigned a "position" to defend on an issue (for
example: men and women are essentially identical; men and women are
equal but different; women are morally superior; etc.--usually
relating to issues raised in particular readings).  I give them time
at the end of one class to plan their team's "case," to assign
issues/roles/etc., and then hold the debate at the next class.  I'm
available during the planning time (and a short time at the beginning
of the class when the debate is scheduled for occurring) for
consultation (which includes giving moral support and encouragement).
    2. Having regularly-scheduled student-led discussions.  Students
sign up to lead a particular day's discussion as part of a team of 2
or 3.  I meet with each team in advance, and then the team
distributes discussion questions the class before their discussion
occurs (the advance meeting is when I can help them come up with
questions).  This works well because no one is completely stranded,
students can pick the topic on which they'll moderate the discussion,
everyone else has some preparation in the form of advance questions,
and everyone knows that s/he eventually will have to lead a
discussion so tends to be supportive of others' efforts.
    I have also had luck with breaking large classes into small
groups, but find that some structure there is also helpful.  I may
assign "roles" or particular questions to each group--and sometimes I
select the spokesperson for each group's report to the larger class
(this way I can assure women and less talkative men participate).  In
the latter case, when I know the student is shy, I encourage her or
him by noting something interesting they've said in a paper or test
as evidence that their ideas deserve to be shared....  I also often
call on more assertive speakers first and ask them relatively
challenging questions--so that the less assertive will know that
"blurting" and merely being assertive is not as important as the
*content* of one's remarks....
Margaret Susan Thompson
thompson  @  maxwell.syr.edu
Dept. of History, 320 Maxwell Hall
Syracuse University
Syracuse, NY 13244-1090
315-443-5882, 443-2210
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1993 12:47:40 -0600 (CST)
From: Bob Bender <ENGBOB @ MIZZOU1.BITNET>
Subject: motivating discussion, etc.
Something I've done this semester with a class of 20, was to set up a list-
serv the students could respond to at any time.  They were hesitant at first,
but as the semester wore on, more than half began communicating with each
other regularly, some on a daily basis, and of course with me, on the list,
and by the time they arrived in class there was no problem with discussion.
If there was a problem, it was getting those not participating on the list into
the conversation, and that allowed those on the list to begin explaining.
This seemed to empower a number of students who otherwise might not have
participated as much.
Bob Bender, Engbob  @  Mizzou1
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1993 16:53:46 -0400 (EDT)
From: BS#1000_Susan Basow <BS#1%LAFAYACS.bitnet @ LAFIBM.LAFAYETTE.EDU>
Subject: motivating discussion, etc.
Another technique for facilitating contributions by "quiet" students:
Ask everyone to write down something:  one word or one sentence reaction
to something; an unanswered question; what strikes them as most impor-
tant in the reading/the lecture/etc.  Then either go around the room
(if class isn't too large) or ask people to share what they wrote.  I've
found that quiet students feel more secure about speaking when they
have something written down.  I think of this technique as "priming
the pump."  It seems to work, and is especially good to start off a
class or to process something that just occurred.
Susan Basow, Psychology Dept.
Lafayette College, Easton, PA  18042-1781
BITNET: bs#1  @  lafayacs.bitnet
INTERNET: bs#1  @  lafibm.lafayette.edu
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1993 17:32:05 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Motivating women students
I have been in a class this semester where six groups of four were asked
to study one ethicist each.  Then, the groups were re-arranged so that
each group had one rep. for each ethicist.  We had a good formula of
questions offered.  It was a great learning experience.  But that is so
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1993 20:06:34 -0500 (EST)
Subject: RE: motivating discussion, etc.
Re: using a listserv to engage students. A colleague of mine used this
technique this semester with a class and required each student to write
two weekly messages: 1) discuss something from the readings and 2) respond
to another student's discussion.  Students could respond to each other
privately, but they needed to include the instructor in order to receive
credit.  My colleague found that many of the students discussed sensitive
issues much more readily over the list than they would in class.  Discussions
included continuation of issues raised in class, discussions about using EMail
as a teaching device, and the required assignments. When she ( my colleague)
told them they did not have to write every week (after about 8 weeks) they
indicated that they loved the assignment -  even though some of them had to
wait in line for a computer -  and they continued using the list.  She has
convinced many of us on this faculty to strongly consider this method.
If anyone wishes to discuss this with her, write me and I'll forward the
message .(I haven't asked her permission to post her address).
Marion Wagner  Indiana University  IBOH100  @  INDYCMS.IUPUI.EDU
Date: Sat, 18 Dec 1993 08:47:00 -0500 (EST)
From: lc22 <Linda_K_COLEMAN @ UMAIL.UMD.EDU>
Subject: RE: motivating discussion, etc.
Another technique is to make it a part of the course requirements that
everyone comes in to class every day with two questions or comments about
the readings for that day that should serve to spark class discussion.  It's
a bit awkward at first, and students often begin by asking fairly simple
questions and directing them at the teacher (who can redirect them to the
class). However, I have found that as the semester progresses the questions
become more sophisticated and students tend naturally to direct them to each
Since the teacher can decide whether to call on specific students or throw
the floor open to anyone who wants to volunteer his/her comment, the teacher
can make sure less assertive students get the chance to contribute.
Further, since the students have put some thought into their
questions/comments before they ask them, those who think more carefully
about things before coming up with ideas aren't penalized--when they walk
into the classroom, they've already put the time and thought into their
questions/comments and tend to produce better ones as a result.
Linda Coleman
Department of English
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742
LC22  @  umail.umd.edu
Date: Sat, 18 Dec 1993 14:34:18 -0500
From: "Barbara J. Peters" <PETERS @ OSHKOSHW.BITNET>
Subject: RE: motivating discussion, etc.
I believe I wrote about this earlier in the term, however... My Social
Psych students handed in discussion questions each week.  They were written
on index cards which made it easy for me to shuffle through them and choose
the questions for the evening.(It's a once a week night class) After
lecture and break, the students were divided into their groups.  For the
first few weeks the assignment to the groups was random...counting off.  I
watched the conversational styles and then assigned permanent groups.  They
were the enthusiastic speakers - 5 men and 2 women - the combination
speakers - 5 men and 3 women and the reflective speakers - 9 women.
The quality of the questions improved throughout the semester and the
students never arrived without their books.  They seemed to take pride in
having their question chosen, especially if it was one that sent everyone
to their books.  This class also wrote journals.  They shared in their
journals how much they enjoyed the small groups, especially after they were
divided by conversation style.  The questions were excellent and they were
graded.  They received from 1-10 points based upon how much it would
promote discussion.  After the first two weeks there were no questions that
were "exam" type questions.  An interesting thing developed... the "quiet"
group would discuss the question and dispense with it very quickly.  Then
the combination speakers would finish and finally the enthusiastic speakers
who could go on forever it seemed.  We were able to discuss 4-5 questions
during the hour.
It ended up being a very rewarding semester
BARBARA PETERS            University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
                          Dept. of Sociology
                          Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901
                          (414) 424-0848
Bitnet Address            peters  @  oshkoshw.bitnet
Internet Address          peters  @  vaxa.cis.uwosh.edu
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 1993 08:23:36 -0500
From: David Loberg Code <CODE @ WMICH.EDU>
Subject: large lecture discussions
    Learning the names of all of your students does (of course) help a
great deal in motivating them to participate, but it is (of course) more
difficult with large lectures.  In my large classes (90-100 students) I do
the following:  on the first day, I have them fill out index cards with their
names, etc... and the one piece of information which (if I knew this about
them) would guarantee that I would never forget who they are.  Then, I have
the students come up, one at a time, and say their name into a video
recorder.   I watch the tape and read the cards a few times and by the 2nd
week I know everyones name.
    I also have them turn in slips of paper at the end of each class with
a question and a comment (which I usually use at the beginning of the next
lecture to get the discussion going).  I also have found e-mail very useful.
David Loberg Code
school of music
western mich. university
code  @  wmich.edu
Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1993 01:07:50 -0500 (EST)
From: Beatrice Kachuck <BEABC @ CUNYVM.BITNET>
Subject: RE: motivating discussion, etc.
susan's suggestion of having students jot down a note before a discussion
begins is good. i've also used it.  but we should consider something students
and colleagues (who are more articulate and analytical on the topic) from
abroad have pointed out: class discussions, in which students are expected or
pressed to participate is a cultural phenomenon in this country. in, eg., india
japan, jamaica, ethiopia it is just not done. entering into discussions,
arguments, putting forward a point of view in a group, particularly a large
group and one in which you don't know people well is uncomfortable; but
writing papers is. sometimes it's a matter of an individual speaking out when a
leader (in this case, the professor) is present.  it's not that people don't
react, have opinions, ponder, and listen; some just prefer to wait to speak and
would rather do it in another forum.  for such people, a requirement to speak
out is oppressive.   beatrice   beabc  @  cunyvm.cuny.edu
Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1993 01:59:51 -0500 (EST)
From: Beatrice Kachuck <BEABC @ CUNYVM.BITNET>
Subject: RE: Motivating women students
two interesting experiences in discussions with my graduate seminar in women's
studies (13 students). two weeks ago i had laryngitis, couldn't speak above a
whisper. i'd typed up some notes on the reading, so had my team teahcer, who
couldn't be there (we're normally both present). i told the students they'd
have to take charge (we usually vary the format and no one in particular was
responsible for leading off that afternoon.)  the students decided to read the
professors' notes aloud, going around the group.  i was astonished, but it
seemed to create a homey atmosphere for them. all but the student who is very
uncomfortable speaking english in a group participated. there was a brief
discussion with broad participation, then the committed derridean and the
committed seeker of the truth engaged in an intense discussion, questioning and
answering each other, searching for bridges across their thinking. only a few
other students entered into that discussion; i whispered a litle., the others
listened intently. everyone thought it was a terrific session.  then, last week
we met at my apartment for our last session and snacks.  the students talked
about the last papers they were handing in that day, the papers were discussed
and we talked about how we each do our feminist thing outside of class and how
it works (the last paper topic was feminist research and feminist activism).
the students teach intro courses, are involved in community groupss, etc. this
session was considered great partly because it was away from the formal seminar
room with its flurescent lights. it lasted 4 hours instead of the usual 2.  so,
how do you have great classes? it varies. 
beatrice beabc @  cunyvm.cuny.edu
Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1993 07:09:54 -0500 (EST)
From: Jo Freeman <JFRBC @ CUNYVM.BITNET>
Subject: RE: motivating discussion, etc.
Re: Bea's comments onthe oppressive nature of compelling classroom discussion,
 it may FEEL oppressive, but that's how we teach people to participate in a dem
ocracy.  Think of it as analygous to atheletic training; you don't get a better
 body without working out.
Date: Thu, 23 Dec 1993 19:08:12 -0500 (EST)
From: Beatrice Kachuck <BEABC @ CUNYVM.BITNET>
Subject: RE: motivating discussion, etc.
i don't want to quarrel with my friend, jo. but notice the difference between
teaching, practice, and the wording she uses: "compelling classroom discussion"
there's a substantial difference in meaning between compulsion and teaching.
while i agree that we should help and encourage students to participate in
classroom discussions for the variety of reasons we can all probably think of,
i think we must be sensitive to and respectful of students who don't want to
speak out at a particular time. compulsion is oppressive.  i also think that if
students don't want to speak, we should try to discover the reasons, sometimes
by asking them in private, sometimes by examining the discussion process and
topic and our own stance on a topic, which may intimidate. i stand by by earlier
comment that the reluctance may be due to a cultural frame.  perhaps i should
add the personal factor and the cultural and well as the personal have political
ramifications.  beatrice   beabc  @  cunyvm.cuny.edu

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