Increasing Participation

Discussion Protocols

UDL 5.3

Increasing student participation strategies are interactive processes applied by the teacher to create a more equitable classroom that engages all students and invites them to actively participate based on their preferred learning styles or needs. These strategies support difficulty processing information auditorily, English Language Learners, or introverted or kinesthetic learners, in particular. Increasing Student Participation strategies are necessary and effective because often verbal participation and extroversion are valued over other types of communication in the classroom. The teacher must analyze which students are not participating and why and solve those problems by using more low-stakes and creative participation methods, like anonymous participation apps, polling the class in response to a question, or using Four Corners and Human continuum to elicit nonverbal responses and facilitate movement.

Implementation Tips

Human Continuum
Provide opportunities to participate through movement around the room after the teacher poses a debatable statement that relates to an informational passage the class has read, “The school day should be extended.” One side of the room is marked “Agree”, another “Disagree”. Students are asked to move to the spot where they stand on the issue.
Equity with Protocols
Ensure everyone has a chance to participate, instead of just a few people leading the discussion. Protocols, like [[ | Chalk Talk]], ensure everyone has a voice. After a question has been posed, writing tool in hand, students can write on the wall/poster/smart board to respond to the question or big idea.
Anonymous Questioning
Question students by using anonymous questioning techniques. Students might feel more like participating when they feel safe to participate anonymously. Technology applications such as Pollanywhere or Socrative allow students to use their mobile phones to answer questions posed by the teacher.
Advanced Questioning
Assess students using questions that ask beyond “yes, no” type responses. When asking questions, ask them broad enough to elicit responses. Questions that have more than right answer and are open ended. “Which character, Wilbur or Charlotte, will make a better friend? Why?”
Low Stakes Questioning
Encourage participation through Snowball to Avalanche is when one student who answers the debatable question becomes the snowflake. Students who agree with that student move towards that student. If another student has another answer, students can move towards that new student if they agree with the answer. Call on students to ask them why they are changing their allegiance.
Group Discussion Participation
Utilize protocols for students working in groups so that everyone has a chance to participate. Teachers can use the [[ | Triad Protocol ]] where everyone is assigned a letter with a role, A=presenter, B=summarizer, C=observer. Students switch roles every fifteen minutes.
Provide Questions in Advance
Give students the questions that will be discussed ahead of time and ask them to prepare their answers before coming to class. This allows students to process at the pace appropriate to them and be prepared for class discussions. When students feel prepared and comfortable with their thinking they are more likely to participate.


Human Continuum
After a class reading an excerpt from a literary text, students are asked whether they agree or disagree with a debatable statement displayed by the teacher (e.g., “The character’s family should have gone back for their son.” An agree sign is on one side of the room, while the disagree is opposite the agree sign. Students are then asked to stand on an invisible line, and to be prepared to answer why they are standing where they are standing. After a few minutes quietly move to their place in line, the teacher uses [[ | equity sticks ]] to ask students to use evidence from the text to defend their place on the continuum. “Why are you hovering between disagree and agree?” Students are then asked to move if they have changed their allegiance because of evidence someone presented during the first round of discussions. The class discussion continues until all sides have been presented and supported with textual evidence. The teacher then moves onto the next statement and proceeds in the same manner.
Group Discussion Guidelines
The teacher introduces the acronym GROUP (G- give encouragement, R- respect others, O- offer support, U- understand the task, P- participate equally). For younger students, role play each point and discuss what it looks like and sounds like. After discussing the expectations and what it means to be a participating member of the class community, the expectations are transferred to class discussions and group work assignments and students are assessed on how well they abide by each of the group work pillars. Teachers can assess group work/discussion at frequent intervals throughout the year.

Related Strategies