Discussion Sessions

A typical discussion session has three parts: introduction, a cooperative problem-solving task, and closure. First, the TA briefly describes the learning goals for the lesson. The TA then gives each student a sheet with the context-rich problem. The TA assigns students the roles of Manage, Recorder/Checker, and Skeptic to three students in each group. The students generally have about 30 minutes to complete the problem in their cooperative groups. The TA observes the groups, diagnoses problems, and intervenes to coach a group only when he or she believes no progress is being made by the group or when students have drifted from their roles.

For closure, the TA conducts a short, whole class discussion. This discussion usually begins by randomly calling on one member from each group to draw or write something on the board. The similarities and differences are then discussed. Finally, the students are given about five minutes in their groups to discuss how well they worked together and what they could improve the next time they work together. Students are given a complete written solution to the problem at the end of the class.