Human Rights

Dr Tom Kerns













Assessing Your Discussion Contributions


our definition of "to discuss"


Good seminar discussions include all three kinds of behaviors below, A. introducing new substantive points into the discussion, B. deepening the discussions and C. facilitating the group's discussion and exploration of ideas. So you can evaluate your participation against this list of behaviors below.


A. Introduced substantive points

I.e., points that were clearly a result of thoughtful reading and thinking about the assigned texts.
(A substantive point is one that became the focus for some group exploration; i.e., was more than an off-hand remark.)

  • Identified essential issues or questions the text is discussing
  • Pointed to the author's main hypotheses, claims, and supporting arguments and evidence
  • Pointed to important passages that needed to be understood
  • Explained the complexities faced in exploring this text
  • Described passages that were personally meaningful or connected to some shared experience

B. Deepened the discussion

I.e., tried to help the class think about individual contributions and discover new insights and understanding of assigned readings.

  • Helped others explore an idea; e.g., provided additional supportive quotes from the text; explained their relevance; summarized or paraphrased ideas; asked clarifying questions
  • Shared the thought process that was personally used in developing an idea
  • Paraphrased what the author means in a specific passage
  • Summarized the arguments being presented
  • Identified similarities and differences in positions being argued
  • Challenged an idea or presented alternate interpretation
  • Connected ideas from several participants or from other texts we've read
  • Formulated insightful questions which sparked group response
  • Introduced personal experiences which illuminated the text for others

C. Facilitated group exploration

I.e., focused on what the group together was accomplishing more than on their own individual performance.

  • Kept the group on task
  • Focused group back to the text
  • Summarized for the group what had been discussed
  • Brought closure to one point and made transition to new one
  • Paraphrased someone's comments, identified what you didn't understand, and/or formulated a specific question asking for clarification
  • Indicated support by responding to a person's ideas, or complimented them
  • Defused a tense moment with use of hum