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UCSB Reads 2022

Discussion Tips from UCSB Instructors

Tips provided by Dr. Abigail Droge and Dr. Chris Dean:

Ground the conversation in the text.

Thinking about the narrative “arc” of a discussion can be helpful -- you can start the session by discussing a specific passage and then build out to larger-scale questions about how our current social moment impacts the way we read this text, how reading this text might impact our current social moment, etc. Or you can start with students’ own experiences (which they are already experts in) and move into the text, etc, etc -- there are many different progressions that work well. Having an idea in advance of the discussion’s major “plot points” can be helpful in providing a loose framework, which can then still be flexible enough to respond to participants’ interests. 

Other ideas:

Ask everyone to come to the meeting with a passage from the text. Ask 'Why did you choose this passage?"

  • Say, “I have a passage that I want you to reflect on. “ Post in the chat, and have the participants take 3-5 minutes to reflect in writing. 
  • Ask how and why questions
  • Or, ask yes and no questions followed by a “why” question
  • Benefit of this kind of discussion is to understand perspective, so ask:
    • Why did the story end this way?
  • Why did the character make that/this decision?

Tips provided by Dr. Michelle Grue:

  • Respect differences of culture, orientation, values, opinion and style.
  • Do not criticize colleagues because of where they are in their idea development or their admission of prejudices, biases, and prior assumptions.
  • Openly and honestly share aspects of your own experiences.
  • Welcome disagreement and critique, as they provide opportunities to learn.
  • Seek to understand first before trying to be understood.
  • Encourage engagement; recognize that everyone has something to contribute.
  • Be specific, give examples, and ask questions.
  • Speak for yourself. Let others speak for themselves. Relatedly, as my late grandma would say, “the devil don’t need no advocate”; if you have a point to make, make it as yourself, not someone’s advocate. 
  • If something did not make sense, ask about it, as others may have the same question.
  • Do not share discussions with others who are not in our community.
  • Add to what has already been said.

E-Book to Facilitate Talking about Difficult Topics

The Circle Way

The Circle Way is a lightly formalized, lightly facilitated social structure that allows people to use circle process in a wide range of settings. 

COMPONENTS OF CIRCLE What transforms a meeting into a circle is the willingness of people to shift from informal socializing or opinionated discussion into a receptive attitude of thoughtful speaking and deep listening that embodies the practices and structures outlined here.

How To Have A Successful Book Discussion (created for the UCSB Reads 2021 program)