Small group discussion

Talk. In small groups. On a specific day.

We’ll do discussion in small groups mostly on Fridays but that depends on the term, four times during the course of the term. We will generally take a topic of current interest or controversy, and discuss it in small groups.

You’ll be assigned some short readings that are specific to the issue or topic of the week. You’ll be asked to turn in a short abstract or summary, 200-250 words. This should be about 1/3 summary of the articles, and about 2/3 analysis. Your group will be given a set of questions to which you’ll spend the hour responding, and turn in at the end of the class period. Here’s the point breakdown:

  • Turning in abstract: possible 5 pts (5 shows effort and thought; 3 – 4 is lacking one of the two;  1 – 2 means you physically turned something in, but it isn’t clear you learned from the exercise; < 2 means you were physically present, but there was something terribly awry or random about what you submitted); Here are a couple of sample abstracts (I & II)
  • Responding to group questions: possible 20 pts (17-20 shows effort and thought; 12-16 is lacking one of the two; 11 or below is a recognition that the group turned something in)

Should you miss Friday’s discussion with an excused absence, you have the possibility of making it up. If you notify me in advance, you can write an expanded reflection paper, following the guidelines below. You can also make it up afterwards, but you only have a week (you can turn it in no later than two weeks late for possible half credit). After the first absence, though, you’ll begin to lose points for not being present to participate in the discussion.

Send make-ups to my email as file attachments.

Total of 100 points possible (4 x 25).

Making up small group discussions

Make-up papers should be no longer than 3 pages, double-spaced (11 or 12 pt font) in length. The following describes how to structure the reflection papers:

  1. What for you were the most important points that you took from the readings and discussion for the Friday topic (do NOT use the regular readings for the week)? This is an exercise in abstract thinking—what is the ‘big picture?’ You should touch on each article, discuss common threads between them, focus on the discussion of the articles, Describe what you got out of the readings and the week’s topic, and gauge your depth of understanding. No book reports here—do some summary, but your paper should be no more than 1/3 summary (and no less than 2/3 analysis).
  2. Critically evaluate the authors’ arguments. Do you agree or disagree with what they said? Remember to read with a critical Don’t be afraid to question the authors’ reasoning or evidence, or to use your own experiences or background to offer other views. Just keep in mind—take a stand, but don’t make points if you’re not going to support them with evidence or logic.
  3. Questions. I will send you the questions groups responded to in class, and you will need to respond to You can use points you’ve made previously to do this, as long as they seem appropriate and relevant to the questions. Plan to spend an hour and a half on this—time writing the summary/analysis, and responding to the group questions (about the same amount of time you would have spent had you attended class and submitted the abstract).


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