The issue I wish to discuss is unequal or non-participation in a group discussion or crit scenario with MA students.This is a community of practice scenario, defined by Lave and Wenger as being an activity between a group of people with common craft or profession – in this circumstances this common ground would be method or discipline of the masters course.This presentation draws from Lave and Wenger’s 1991 publicationSituated Learning: Legitimate peripheral participation
Situational learning posits learning as ‘unintentional and situated within authentic activity, context and culture’ and as such is embedded within a group discussion or critical seminar. These situations are important for the student as they offer an opportunity to interact with, learn from and learn with their co-students, as well as an informal opportunity to build confidence in public conversation
However, not everyone contributes equally in these situations. This could be because the individual participants are shy, or feel they have nothing to say. They may not be sure how to articulate their ideas or be confident in doing so with peers. There may be a dominant voice or voices in the situation.I should note that it is potentially natural for not everyone to contribute to every aspect of this scenario, however, for everyone to benefit from these learning situations, as much unforced participation as possible is beneficial for all concerned, both in the discussion or critique of work but also in growing confidence in the students to contribute when they feel they want to. All students should be equipped with the skills to confidently speak when they want to in a group discussion or crit.
In order to create an initial conversation I suggest gamification as a possible solution or method. I thought about throwing a ball between students, however this puts people on the spot to speak when they have it and could mean that some people are included more than othersThe facillitator could ask students, or get the student to ask other students for their opinions, however it again puts people on the spot and could lead to including some people more than others. This could also lead to some students feeling they couldn’t add their opinion if they were not asked.Or going round in a circle taking turns to speak – puts some people last when they might have something to add earlier, and might mean a student forgets what they want to say buy their turn or feels its has become irrelevant. It again putspeople on the spot, particularly the first student
So my proposed game is this: At the start of the workshop the faciliitator shows some sentence suggestions and goes through them, giving suggestions as to how they could be used. These sentences are:I like – about the work but I would do – differently because - .What will you do with – next? Why? I ask this because -.I think – works but I am not sure about – because -.I saw -. I think it might be relevant to the work because -.Have you tried -? I think it could be interesting because -?Could the work be made from - ? I think this could be interesting because -.The facilitator has a piece of work to be critiqued – I suggest a domestic object such as a can of baked beans or a discipline specific object such as a famous work of art which in this group situation is authorless and thus low risk for commentary. Travelling round the group in the circle, starting with the facilitator, each person offers a critique based on one of the sentences suggested, picked through a roll of the dice. This introduces an element of chance, humour and activity.This could be repeated a couple of times or at the beginning of each group discussion or crit, as an icebreaker
There are problems with this similar to those discussed before:Someone will have to be the first contributor form the student cohort, and someone else will have to be the last. Students might feel they have nothing to say that is ‘new’ to the conversation by the time it gets to them. I would say that articulated repetition – eg not ‘I think the same as he said’ but ‘I also think that …’ would be an acceptable contribution and way of using the sentences
I would also suggest having post it notes or similar available for note taking or critique writing, in case some one would like to add their comment more privately later or plan their comment before speakingI would also have a dictionary available for discussion of words that not everyone knows or appropriate words for the situationLastly I would have pens and communal large sheets of paper for diagramming or sketching ideas or words to one another
When the group moves to discussing their own work or ideas, or the designated topic I would keep the sentences clearly in view as prompts for those who would like to use them. I would encourage students to use them if they wished, or to construct their own sentences.I would also keep the post its, paper, pens and dictionary etc within easy reachThis should allow them to self organise, offering support when needed, but equally the freedom to verbally enter the discussion when they wish, acknowledging that activity and activeness are not the same – a student may be involved with the conversation at hand without verbally contributing
Looking at this situation in the activity system suggested by engestrom I think it coversthe criteria needed without putting too much pressure on individual students. As part of what is required of students within a further education course is to contribute to their own communities of practice I hope thisgame would offer the support for those less sure of how to do this.