Discussion Guidelines

Each student will co-lead one discussion during the quarter. Your goal as discussant is to help drive an engaged and stimulating discussion of that day's papers. Each day, the final 30 minutes of class will be set aside for discussion, with you in a leading role based on your synthesis of the students' submitted commentaries, and your reactions to their ideas.

Complete this assignment as a group with other discussant(s) assigned to your date. Your responsibilities as discussants shall number three:

1) Synthesize commentaries

After 5:00 pm on the eve of your discussion, you will receive access through the course submission system to read through other students' responses. Note that the relevant commentaries will at this point be found in the "Past Assignments" section at the bottom of the page (as the submission deadline has passed). Generate a short document highlighting interesting or common ideas in the commentaries — Michael and the TA will use this to help guide discussion. Submit your commentary summary to the “Discussant” assignment in the course submission system by noon on the day of your discussion. Submit as a group assignment joint with your co-discussant(s). Michael and the TA will print out copies of your summary to bring with them, and will use your document to help drive discussion during their part of the discussion in class.

To create your commentary summary, first identify key insights from the critiques and cluster them around noteworthy themes. Organize the document with headers around each of these themes, with excerpted quotes as bullets illustrating each theme. Themes should be clusters of what people said, regardless of whether you agree with the point of view or whether you think that it's an insightful perspective. That way, in class we can discuss themes and why each is or is not an insightful critique — feedback on the commentaries that is an important part of learning for the class. The themes don't need to be chosen based on popularity— feel free to create a theme around a single comment if you want, if you think it's an interesting perspective to discuss. Name the author of each quote, so that the staff can call to the student in class if they want to hear that person expand on the point in their own words.

Second, create a group of star comments — particularly insightful or provocative ideas that you think will produce high-quality discussion amongst the class. Create a Star Comments theme for those star comments up at the top of the document, and quote those comments in that section. The star comments are likely to cover different topics and themes. You may reuse comments from other themes as star comments section.

Here is an example commentary summary for the Weiser reading. Read it, keeping in mind that yours will need to cover both papers, not just one. Here is a template document you can use as a starting point for your summary if you want.

2) Prepare a two-minute metacommentary on each of two themes

As discussant, select two of the themes that are most worth discussing (one from each paper) and launch discussion on each theme with your own summary and response, which we call a metacommentary. You have two minutes for your metacommentary for each theme. Your metacommentary should cover:

  • A synthesis of the main points being raised in that theme, using quotes as relevant.
  • Your response to the points being raised. Take a position! Stake out a thesis of your own. Do you agree with one side or the other—and if so, why do you find one of the sides a more compelling argument?—or can you offer an alternative perspective that the class didn't articulate?

This is best prepared for by creating an outline to use as a reference in class. Keep in mind that you and your co-discussant are likely to be split up into separate rooms, so each of you will need to represent the same perspective. No slides — it takes too long to set up. Don't just read a pre-prepared script — people will zone out.

The discussion will work as follows: first, you will do your metacommentary to introduce the first theme and your response. Then, we (the staff) will use your metacommentary as a launching point for discussion on the theme. We expect that you, as the local expert, will contribute actively in this discussion. Next, we will move to the second theme, and you will launch it by presenting your second metacommentary. Following that ensuing discussion, the staff will hop to other topics, likely ones in your summary.

3) Peer asses others' commentaries

Finally, grade the student commentaries. We recommend grading before or right after class while everything is fresh. The goal is to assign a "check", "check-plus", "check-minus" grading system, based on the depth of student's intellectual engagement with the paper's core ideas.

As a first requirement, complete the peer assessment calibration activity. This activity will help you calibrate to what kinds of commentary submissions deserve a check, check-minus, and check-plus. We will check to make sure each discussant completed this activity. The rubric is:

  • Check-minus: Only surface-level engagement with the readings. Examples of surface-level engagement include: comments about whether the commenter likes or would use the technology, a summary of the paper rather than a reflections on the ideas, or critiques that engage only obliquely with the paper or indicate that the commenter didn't fully read it. Incomplete submissions also earn a check-minus.
  • Check: Effective engagement with the readings. Example commentaries involving check grades often indicate that they understand the main ideas of the papers, and the reflections are reasonably nontrivial observations worth discussing.
  • Check-plus: Excellent engagement with the readings. Check-plus grades are reserved for rare instances where a commentary really hits on an interesting, unique, and insightful point of view worth sharing. Your Star Comments are likely to be check-plus. Generally no more than 5-10% of submissions earn a check-plus.

Second, grade the submitted commentaries through the admin interface. Once you've completed this, please release the grades for the student commentaries and generate statistics for your discussion's assigned readings. You will have admin access for four days following your discussion day.

You may split this up amongst co-discussants if you'd like, but keep in mind that your performance will be graded jointly. The staff will sample some of your grades for the peer assessment to ensure that you are grading accurately. Grading inconsistently with the rubric will reduce your grade on the discussant assignment.

Category Insufficiency Adequacy Proficiency Mastery
7 points
1: Commentary synthesis is incomplete or impossible to follow. 3: Commentary synthesis demonstrates minimal depth in the themes identified and the quotes chosen. 5: Commentary synthesis demonstrates moderate depth in the themes identified and the quotes chosen. 7: Commentary synthesis demonstrates exceptional depth in the themes identified and the quotes chosen.
Metacommentary: clarity
7 points
1: Metacommentary is incomplete or incoherent. 3: Metacommentary is unclear at communicating the class's ideas and the discussant's response. 5: Metacommentary is moderately clear at communicating the class's ideas and the discussant's response. 7: Metacommentary is exceptionally clear at communicating the class's ideas and the discussant's response.
Metacommentary: insight
7 points
1: Metacommentary response is incomplete or demonstrates no synthesis. 3: Metacommentary demonstrates minimal insight in its response to the students' commentaries. 5: Metacommentary demonstrates moderate insight in its response to the students' commentaries. 7: Metacommentary demonstrates exceptional insight in its response to the students' commentaries.
Peer assessment
7 points
1: Assessments are incomplete or completely inaccurate. 3: Major issues in accuracy or timeliness of assessments. 5: Moderate issues in accuracy or timeliness of assessments. 7: Assessed the commentaries accurately and on time.