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Drive time: Analyze a discussion while commuting

Using a good microphone and an ordinary audiotape recorder, record some discussion in a class. Listen to the tape while driving home or back to work, considering questions like these:

  • How much do students talk, as compared to the teacher? Are student comments short or long?
  • Are students trying to understand the object of discussion or trying to figure out the correct answer in the teacher's head?
  • Is the conversation diverging into an exploration of positions and reasons or converging toward an agreement and prescribed answer?
  • Do students ever take initiative in the discussion?
  • When do students' comments show understanding of the matter at hand?
  • What range of moves is the teacher using, with what seeming consequences?
  • How can the teacher know what the students in the room might be thinking?

Parts of Leads discussions suggest many more questions you could be asking as you listen to the tape.