Comprehensive Assessment Tracking System

Democratic Decision Making in the Classroom

Tuesday, March 5, 2013 to Thursday, May 2, 2013

In order to get students more personally involved in the learning process, students are given the responsibility of choosing four debate topics that are then used to formulate the questions used in the formal debates in the course.

Through a combination of guided discussion and voting students decide as a group what they will research and debate.

This gives studetns the opportunity to be directly involved in what they will study. On of the guiding principles of this practice is that student involvement and focus on task are increased when they are allowed to pursue what interests them and given some control over what they study.

The specific instruction for the practice are in the attached document.

Completed Full Cycle: 
Course Number: 
PHI 213


PETAA00009's picture
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Interesting stuff, Michael! I like the process of narrowing down to a workable number of topics (I call that "funnelling"). Now, I want to know how you structure the debates. How are teams chosen? How is the debate managed in class? What type of results have you had with this process (as compared to the old way you did it)?

ERIQF52091's picture
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I agree that having students have some (bounded) control over what they study leads to a more interested student and probably a better educational outcome.  I'm wondering in this case what you define learning to be, and how you will know it when you see it.  Do you use a rubric to grade these?  That would be a good thing to include.  I see that as of now the cycle hasn't been complete so I'm looking forward to your results!

stetk00001's picture
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Dr. Boring: Having students selecting their own debate topics, when they are equally relevant to your curriculum and objectives, whould certainly seem to be a positive motivator.  While the motivation gain will vary between indivdual students, this would seem to be a certain net gain for classroom participation.

MARSL33291's picture
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Now that the spring semester is over, Michael, do you have data that compares the learning outcomes for the students who had a choice in selecting their debate topics with those that didn't (perhaps in an earlier semester)?  I'm curious as to whether allowing students to "build their own" project in a math class would result in easy, hard or "just right" creations. Thanks for the idea!