Elements of Discussion

Edited by:
David I. Backer, Cleveland State University

A volume in the series: Critical Constructions: Studies on Education and Society. Editor(s): Curry Stephenson Malott, West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Brad J. Porfilio, Seattle University. Marc Pruyn, Monash University. Derek R. Ford, DePauw University.

Published 2015

Discussion is distorting today. Within schools, social movements, and firms, there has been an increasing tendency for teachers and facilitators to announce that there will be a discussion while the interaction which follows this announcement is not a discussion, but something else‐‐likely a recitation and lecture. This distortion of discussion promises democracy, equality, and participation during a meeting or class, but delivers inequality, prohibition, and dominance.

Now is the time to begin changing these practices which ultimately create and support a neoliberal society that promises democracy but practices oligarchy. One way to change this neoliberal social world is by intervening in the distortion of discussion, by facilitating interaction so that discussion’s promise of equality and participation is fulfilled rather than negated. Elements of Discussion is a resource for this intervention. It is a political, poetic, and practical handbook for facilitating discussion. Discussions happen everywhere, and if society itself is composed of relationships between people then creating more participation and equality during discussions can help create the conditions for social change. Elements of Discussion therefore includes practical tips, techniques, and reflective questions through which it firmly and sensitively suggests to readers how to facilitate discussions across contexts. Beginning with the ways chairs and tables are set up, continuing through the kinds of questions a facilitator can ask, and including sample activities facilitators can use, the book expounds a philosophy of facilitating discussion, emphasizing the political and poetic significance of the tactics it recommends.

Preface. Chairs. Tables. How Did You Get To This Discussion? What Discussion Is and Is Not: Recitation. Be Early. “Hi”. Here We Are. Check‐in. Bodies. Written and Oral Discussion. Online Discussion. Physical Activity. The Living Silence. Questions. Collective Questioning. The First Silence. The Second Silence. Your Eyes. The General Rule of Silences. Notes. Make Your Voice A Mixtape. Freedom. The White Man. Different Kinds of Quiet People. Discussion and Deliberation. Mmmmmm. Repair. Be Unsure. Facilitator/Participant. One Person Is A Universe. Openness. Discussion Over Time. A Good Rule. Proper Names. “I Learned A Lot From What You Said”. Food. Equality. Language. Talking Sticks and Bells. Turn vs. Comment. The Average Game. Counting. Making Decisions. Discussion as Democracy. What Discussion Is and Is Not: Dialogue. What Discussion Is and Is Not: Socratic. What Discussion Is and Is Not: Conversation. “Sharing Ideas”. Be Aware of the Time. Get Exuberant Once or Twice. Pause. Knowing the Stakes. Therapy. When Things Boil. Sexism. Facilitator Power. English. Discipline. Other Theories. Fairy Tale Tennis Ball. Remembering Game. Emotional Social Contract. Tangents. Comment Game. Debrief. Discussing Discussion. Reading List. Author Bio.