> doesn't happen as much in whole class discussions--the students
> still turn to me as "discussion leader" and I probably accept
> that role too readily. The synchronous on-line group discussions
> they participate in have a very different dynamic, though. I
> think the combination of the two (synchronous on-line group
> discussions and face-to-face whole-class discussions) complement
> each other well. Still, in the face-to-face discussions I'm aware
> that the discussion is often more teacher-centered than I like,
> and that when the class discussion turns into a debate with a
> student who's challenging me then it becomes unreasonably and
> unproductively teacher-centred.
I appreciate you pointing this out. What you've observed here is
precisely what has driven me away from the essay as my primary
teaching tool, assessing tool, expressing tool, to on-line
synchronous *or* asynchronous conversation. There can be no discussion
leader and students who normally don't participate in face-to-face
discussions (perhaps because of bodily self-consciousness) are
high participants on-line. Suddenly, with participation way up
and with students seeing what they say and seeing how it effects
others, the rhetorical "field of expertise" that I've managed
to bank them with comes alive in practice and experience. Dewey
would say that that's a real educative experience.
We need to teach rhetoric (using the best methods at our disposal)
and then trust the learning to happen through genuine practice.