S3 E2: How do I facilitate NGSS style student discussions remotely?

August 24, 2020

In this episode, Erin and Nicole answer two listener questions. These questions came from the NGSS Newbies Facebook Group. Alyssa asked about facilitating student discussions remotely. Hanadi asked how to facilitate group work.

These tips are great for facilitating student discussions online. But, they can also be used if you are needing to distance your students during in-person learning.

How do I facilitate NGSS style student discussions remotely?

Here are Nicole and Erin’s top tips for facilitating student discussions online.

Consider if you will be facilitating the discussions synchronously or asynchronously.

The techniques that you employ depend on the type of learning that will be taking place.

For example, if your students are participating synchronously, you can facilitate the discussion in ways that are more similar to classroom learning. So, you can call on students who would like to speak in a whole-group discussion.

Synchronous strategies may work better than they did in the spring as attendance becomes a requirement.

Make the best use of synchronous time.

Synchronous time shouldn’t be used for lectures, reading, or other activities that students can do on their own. For example, a flipped classroom model can be used by recording and posting videos of lectures.

Instead, focus on activities that require direct interaction between you and the students and between students. Use synchronous for things like formative assessments and student discussions. Consider prioritizing student discussions during this time.

Student discussions can take place using breakout rooms, shared documents, and other technology resources.

Asynchronous Discussions

Discussion can also take place asynchronously. Utilize digital platforms to allow students to comment during the asynchronous time.

Teach your students how you want them to engage in NGSS style student discussions online.

It is important to teach your students procedures at the beginning of the year. Otherwise, it is more likely for improper behaviors to occur.

Student discussions often use the practice of Engaging in an Argument Using Evidence.

For example, students may be engaging in argumentation. It is important to teach students what respectful questions and rebuttals look like. Otherwise, students are more likely to respond innapropriately.

Provide structure and scaffolding for discussions.

The more structure and scaffolding that you provide for students, the better their discussions will be. Here are some examples of information that you can provide to improve student discussions:

  • How they are expected to respond
  • The number of times that they are expected to respond to other students
  • Sentence stems to help students craft their responses

Nicole also recommends that you discuss the ways in which text can be misinterpreted. For example, tone is often misinterpreted.

Find a platform where students will discuss NGSS content.

There are so many platforms that allow students to discuss and communicate with each other. For example,

  • Post a discussion question in the stream of Google Classroom ™ and allowing students to respond with comments
  • Create a FlipGrid™ question and ask students to make video responses. Students can ask questions or respond in the comments.
  • Padlet™ provides another way to organize discussions and topics.
  • Allow students to work together using a shared document.
  • Utilize Zoom™ breakout rooms.

After students have had the opportunity to discuss, remember to do a synthesis activity to wrap up.

Student discussions can be robust and can cover a lot of content quickly. It is important to end by summarizing the information for your students.

There are several ways to do this. For example, you could pool written responses and share them with your students. Or, have students summarize the discussion.

Also, its a good idea to credit the students when summarizing the discussion. This helps foster relationship with students and builds student confidence.

Provide students with a reflection after the discussion.

A reflection piece is a great way to improve future discussions. Provide the with questions about their engagement and participation.

Also, it’s a good idea to give students a target for a discussion. For example, ask them if they responded to other students instead of just the teacher. Or, ask them if they respectfully agreed or disagreed with peers.

How often should you make time for NGSS style student discussions in your class?

Nicole and Erin believe that these type of discussions should be taking place often in your class. Students learn more when they are doing the talking instead of the teacher. Also, engagement is higher in classes where students are regularly participating in discussions.

These discussions do not have to be formal. Think-pair-shares are great ways to include short discussions in your class.

Want to learn more?