Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Learning to Teach Through Discussion

Learning to Teach Through Discussion: The Art of Turning the Soul

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Learning to Teach Through Discussion
    Book Description:

    This sequel to Sophie Haroutunian-Gordon's acclaimedTurning the Soul: TeachingThrough Conversation in the High Schoolpresents a case study of two people learning to teach. It shows them engaging two groups of fourth grade students in discussion about the meaning of texts-what the author calls "interpretive discussion. The two groups differ with respect to race, geographical location, and affluence.

    As the novice teachers learn to clarify their own questions about meaning, they become better listeners and leaders of the discussions. Eventually, they mix the students from the two classrooms, and the reader watches them converse about a text as the barriers of race and class seem to break down. In addition to the detailed analysis of the case study,Learning to Teach Through Discussion: The Art of Turning the Soulpresents philosophical, literary, and psychological foundations of interpretive discussion and describes its three phases: preparation, leading, and reflection. A tightly argued work, the book will help readers learn to engage students of all ages in text interpretation.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15582-2
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Introduction to Interpretive Discussion
    (pp. 1-18)

    Interpretive discussion is discussion about the meaning of texts. It aims to understand a text, to appreciate its features and meanings, whether one eventually judges them to be right or wrong. It grows from genuine questions that discussants have when they study the text, questions provoked by the desire to understand it. The “clean palate” that Strier, Empson, and others call for is what one might refer to as an open mind: a mind seeking to know the text on its own terms.

    To have an open mind does not mean that one’s understanding is unbiased or that the time,...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Finding a Shared Concern: THE PROJECT BEGINS
    (pp. 19-42)

    One day in late November 1996, Paula Baron and Marsha Mason, two graduate education students who aspired to teach in elementary school, entered my office.¹ They shared the following frustrating situation:

    We were sitting in the hallway [of a suburban school] discussing Langston Hughes’s poem “Mother to Son” with a group of fourth graders. It was a poem we both loved about an African American woman who gives her son advice about how to handle the struggles in life. As the conversation advanced, we began to exchange disturbed glances as we listened to what our students were saying about the...

    (pp. 43-65)

    In week 3 of the project, after they had led the discussions ofThe Giving Treein both schools, Marsha and Paula returned to Central to help the group there reflect on a story from Africa called “Kaddo’s Wall.” Week 4 took them back to Sheridan with “Kaddo’s Wall,” and in Weeks 5 and 6 they visited Central and Sheridan, respectively, to explore a story from Africa titled “Allah Will Provide.” In Weeks 7 and 8 the co-leaders turned to a tale from the French Canadian tradition titled “Jean Labadie’s Big Black Dog.”

    For reasons of space, clarity, and ease of...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Mixing the Groups
    (pp. 66-90)

    From the beginning of the project, the co-leaders had considered mixing the two groups for conversations about the fifth and final text. They wanted to give all participants an opportunity to converse with students from the other group. Yet they had been hesitant, fearing that the discussions might not go well.

    One question that had been present from the start moved the coleaders to take the plunge and mix the two groups: Would experience in the discussions help participants draw out ideas and gain insight from each other despite differences in race, socioeconomic class, and school or home culture? Furthermore,...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Learning to Question
    (pp. 91-118)

    Chapters 2, 3, and 4 show two groups of fourth-grade students learning to participate in discussion about the meaning of texts. Chapters 5 and 6 argue that their progress, at least in part, is made possible by growth in the discussion-leading skills of Marsha and Paula, the co-leaders. In the present chapter, we see how features of their preparations for discussion seem to affect the ability of both groups to form genuine questions about the meaning of the stories and pursue resolution. In Chapter 6 we explore some of the co-leaders’ discussion-leading patterns, which appear to be related to their...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Learning to Lead Discussion
    (pp. 119-151)

    Marsha and paula had studied interpretive discussion before the project began. They had been told that the goal was to help the group form a question about the meaning of the text and to pursue its resolution. I encouraged them to open the discussion with the BQ that they had prepared or to ask the students for their questions. In most cases, as we have seen, they picked the latter alternative.¹ As the discussants posed queries or made comments about the story, the co-leaders wrote them down. In addition, I encouraged them to ask the discussants for textual evidence that...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Implications for Educators
    (pp. 152-177)

    The case study that we explored in Chapters 2–6, though small in scope, has implications for education in the twenty-first century. It provides evidence that participation in interpretive discussion, or discussion about the meaning of texts, can develop the habits and skills needed to cultivate questions. Thus it can help discussion participants identify interests, that is, things they wish to know. It can teach them how to pursue investigation—how to explore a text to find points of ambiguity and evidence with which to address the ambiguities. And as they pursue investigation, they develop habits of reflection, including those...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 178-180)

    As many have recognized,¹ “Questions that are genuine questions, that don’t have pre-specified answers, and evaluations that validate students’ contributions, are going to create a different kind of classroom discourse and a different level of engagement.”² When the authors speak of “genuine questions, that don’t have pre-specified answers,” they would seem to include questions that students wish to resolve—ones for which neither students nor teachers have definitive resolutions. When they speak of “evaluations that validate students’ contributions,” they refer to teacher responses that affirm students’ efforts to address such questions. Accordingly, the authors suggest that when students are expected...

    (pp. 181-183)
    (pp. 184-187)
    (pp. 188-190)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 191-210)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 211-222)