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9th application: Classroom participation

9th application: Classroom participation

9th Application:

Classroom participation using foreign language at Turkish university


Facilitation was to be used to improve the quality of discussion in a foreign-language academic environment. The class, taught at a high-quality university in Istanbul, Turkey, was on major currents in western European history. Challenges included the fact that the class and discussion were required to be in English, a foreign language, and that the students had only superficial knowledge of the topic at hand.

Each week included a two-hour discussion section on the week's topics, which were different each week. Topics ranged from the Industrial Revolution to New Social Movements, Reniassance Art and Fascism. My goal was to use tools of facilitation when possible to improve critical discussion of the topic at hand.


  • Sociometry
  • Me-We-Us

One of the problems faced in class was a reluctance on the part of students to use English (as a foreign langauge) in discussing new topics. These two tools were especially useful in "breaking the ice".
Sociometry allowed us to visualize discussion points and questions in a way that was simple and apparent to all participators. Asking students questions about their positions in the line allowed us to delve into more detail than would have been possible with an entire class in front of us.
Me-We-Us had a similar purpose. Individual, written reflection - even brief - was important to help students formulate thoughts in a non-pressured environment before presenting ideas to the class.

  • World Cafe

We noticed our students tended to work much better in groups of three or four than as a class. So small groups were asked to respond to different sets of questions or visual materials. After discussion, groups would migrated and view a set of other materials to add commentary. A review session at the end of the excercise, in which the questions or visual materials were projected onto a screen, facilitated the discussion as a class group.

  • Collective Mind Map

Students were asked to anonymously write responses to open ended questions about the expectations society had on gender roles. Because of the sensitivity of the topic, answers were read aloud (in a neutral voice) and written on the board. Students were asked to make free connections between the numerous concepts on the board and seek out trends and contradictions.

Challenges encountered:

Layout: Classrooms are often laid out in a way that promotes hierarchy (like a lecture pit with the teachers at the front and center). Where possible, we changed rooms. Where this was impossible, an unchangeable and hierarchical layout proved one of the greatest impediments to facilitating discussion.

Class culture: The expectation that the teacher/discussion leader would "feed information" to the students was difficult (or even impossible) to overcome. Lack of preparation by students also lended to the sense that discussion leaders were there merely to help students "memorize facts" for the exam.

For next time:

One of facilitation's strengths is its ability to arrive at common goals and mission statements. One of the goals of my teaching in the next semester should be to come up with a kind of "mission" or "list of goals" for the class. Reminding students of their own goals throughout the semester will make the discussion less hierarchal. It will also lend an air of importance to the discussions continuing throghout the semester, perhaps motivating students to overcome the stifling teacher-student relationship described above.

Last changed by Sabrina Tschiche on 24/09/2010

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    Network of Intercultural Communication Organizations on Facilitation

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    Matthias Bär

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