Increasing student voice in class discussions – By Lauren Atkins
When facilitating class discussions, I was asking the same questions, ‘what do you think of this?’ or ‘how is this historical event important?’ I wanted a strategy that allowed students to identify where an answer could be challenged or developed without me asking the questions. The card technique was recommended to me by a colleague and I decided to try it out. I gave students cards with ‘challenge’ written on one side and ‘develop’ on the other. Students were invited to hold up the cards when they wanted to challenge or develop their peer’s answer. Students could use these throughout the lesson. Additionally, I would begin a discussion with a basic question for example, ‘why was the Gunpowder plot important?’ Immediately, I found myself facilitating discussions and my students were leading them. My role changed from asking various questions to simply select students by name; the student voice increased greatly! Instantly, students were looking for ways to challenge or develop one another’s answers. The quality of response improved as they were explaining their points in greater detail. On occasions, I would find myself gesturing to students to keep talking so they developed their response. From a teaching perspective, I was able to observe my students debating with each other rather than thinking of questions to encourage discussion. The challenge and develop cards help to improve students written work too because when I mark their books and write ‘how can you develop this answer further?’ or ‘how could your argument be challenged?’ students have a better idea of what I am referring too. If on occasions students found this difficult, I would direct them to the discussions we had in lessons to prompt their thinking. Particularly for higher attaining students it provides an opportunity for them to access higher order thinking skills. By challenging, they are analysing and evaluating arguments. I have since used this strategy with my other classes and it has been a success too.