Learning about Issues through Discussion in the Primary Social Studies Classroom: A Shared Inquiry Approach, pp. 6 of 16

Determining skills and dispositions

Determination of which social or cognitive skill and/or disposition to spotlight is part of preparation. It is a mistake to assume that students have the pre-requisite skills and dispositions for discussion. Explicit teaching of these skills and dispositions through coaching, modelling, scaffolding and feedback is therefore vital and students need practice on how to discuss in order to develop these skills and dispositions.

The discussion skills can be organised into social, cognitive and use of knowledge skills. All discussions have a social dimension whereby a group of people gathers to exchange ideas and information about the question in focus. The social skills are speaking, listening and collaborating. Different from talking, speaking is intentional and formal and the skills involved are speaking with clarity, speaking audibly, speaking during a discussion opening without hand raising, addressing everyone in the room, and speaking with elaboration to contribute to collective learning. Listening means listening actively to understand the meaning behind someone’s words, using silence to think about the discussion and comparing it with one’s own thinking, asking questions, paraphrasing correctly, having eye contact with the speaker and giving non-verbal cues that one is listening. Collaborative skills contribute to shared inquiry and understanding when students are able to hitch on and elaborate on others’ comments, invite non-participants to the conversation, respond without being defensive, remain open-minded, seek to comprehend and discuss with those with contrary views and backgrounds, and disagree respectfully.

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

Newsletter Subscription

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up-to-date with new journal issues!