Learning about Issues through Discussion in the Primary Social Studies Classroom: A Shared Inquiry Approach, pp. 5 of 16

Framework for quality discussion

Walsh and Sattes (2015) believe that quality discussions do not just happen, they need to be carefully prepared by teachers and students. In their book, “Questioning for Classroom Discussion”, they propose a five-stage discussion process framework to help teachers conduct quality discussion, namely preparing, opening, sustaining, closing and reflecting. The stages are well elaborated in their book and their main ideas will be highlighted in this section.


Preparation involves framing the focus questions, determining the kind of discussion skills and dispositions for student development, assigning students prep work, choosing participation structures and considering organisational issues.

Framing the focus question

Inquiry of issues has to be driven by quality focus questions. When framing the focus question, the issue and the wording and structure of the question need to be carefully considered. The aspects of the issue in question for consideration are: Is the issue related to the curriculum? Does it invite a multitude of views? Is it engaging, meaningful and important to students? What is the extent of students’ prior knowledge about the issue? As for the form of the question, the following should be considered: Does the context of the issue provide the focus and activate student thinking? Is the chosen academic vocabulary appropriate? Do the verbs activate the desired depth of student thinking?  Is the question structure simple or convoluted? As it can be challenging to ask good questions on the spot, anticipating student responses and planning appropriate teacher moves to sustain the discussion and correct student misconceptions become an essential aspect of framing quality focus questions. 

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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