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Essays About Summer Reading

Summer Reading: Facilitating Group Discussions (Essays on Teaching Excellence)

Posted by Rhett Mcdaniel on Monday, June 20, 2011 in News.

Facilitating Group Discussions: Understanding Group Development and Dynamics

Kathy Takayama, Brown University
The POD Network Teaching Excellence Essay Series, 2009-10

From the essay:
Facilitating discussions requires the ability to engage different perspectives and skills in response to the needs of the group. How well a group works together depends upon the dynamics among participants and the ability of the facilitator to gauge and respond to these dynamics. An effective facilitator works to create an inclusive learning environment while being prepared to set boundaries and rules when necessary. Yet, even experienced facilitators can be confronted with situations or individuals that prevent the group from functioning. Such situations are even more daunting for new faculty and graduate student Teaching Assistants (TAs) who are new to leading groups.”

What reflective practices can prepare facilitators and participants for productive group discussions?

This essay describes an approach which combines multiple resources with an explanation on how one teaching center used them to foster self-awareness among facilitators and the students in their discussion groups.

Read the entire article, or browse the CFT Teaching Guide on discussion leading.

Essays on Teaching Excellence is a series of eight short and succinct scholarly essays published by the POD Network on an annual basis, free of charge. The essays present innovative viewpoints on college and university instruction. Written in concise and non-technical language, and supported by research, the essays seek to assist instructors in reflecting upon and refining their practice of teaching to achieve the results they seek – students learning to the best of their abilities. You can view the archive of these essays on the POD website.

Image: “Reading in the Backyard,” Pamela Barclay, Flickr (CC)

Tags: Discussion Leading, Summer Reading

Dear New Crown Students,

The staff, faculty, and I look forward to your arrival in the Fall of 2017. As you know, in Winter quarter most of you will take Crown’s Core Course: The Social and Ethical Implications of Emerging Technologies. In the Fall, all of you will take either CRWN 79, WRIT 20, or Scholars (CRWN 80A/B). These courses (Fall and Winter) all begin with a Summer Assignment (SA) that introduces some key Core (and therefore Crown College) themes and serves as your first writing assignment.

Your SA has two parts. The first part is the summer readings (three short stories) and an analytical essay of 750 to 1250 words about them (details below). The second part is a 500-1000-word log on a 24-hour eFast you will undertake (also explained below). You will discuss the readings and your eFast in class on the first day in September. Please bring both parts of the Summer Assignment with you, and turn them into your Instructor—regardless of whether you are in CRWN 79, WRIT 20, or Scholars (CRWN 80A/B).

Please start both the essay (Part 1) and the log (Part 2) on a separate page, so they can be reviewed separately. Be sure to type your name on each, in the upper, right-hand corner, and attach them to each other with a clip.


Your Readings and Essay (Part 1)

Your summer reading assignment:


These three stories vary greatly in style and setting, but they all explore the choices humans make, choices that ask what being human means. While they are quite different, they are all considered excellent writing and raise important ethical, social and political issues.

Your task is to analyze the question the stories ask: What is it to be human? Please describe how each of these three stories explores the “problem” of the human. And, specifically, how do new technologies or breeding aliens or a desperate high-tech flight for survival change what it means to be human?

You are not writing a plot summary of the stories. Instead, you are analyzing the ideas about being human they illuminate—and why you think they are important. 

As you craft your analysis, please create an implicit or explicit thesis statement that frames your conclusions and tells us why it’s important.

In your essay, explain how the issue/s you identify in the texts connect with larger social, political, or historical contexts you care about. Be sure to give concrete examples and evidence from the texts, your life, and your observations that support your insights.

Try to achieve a balance of textual summary and quotation, on the one hand, and analysis and argument, on the other hand. Make sure you show the significance of specific textual examples and how they support your analysis. Remember, you are being asked to think deeply about important issues, not to take a binary pro or con position. Also, please be specific.

Be sure to use clear and succinct language that illuminates your thoughtful analysis. Be sure to edit your essay for good word choice, and proof your essay for errors in spelling, punctuation, completeness, and syntax.


Your eFast Narrative Log (Part 2)

Choose one 24-hour period, between now and when you arrive at Crown during which you will abstain from using all digital communications and social media. Note the time and date in your handwritten (not typed or spoken) log.

During your eFast, you will not text, email, or access the Internet — including any social media, gaming sites, using GPS, etc. Likewise, you will not use cell phones, computers, pads, tablets, or any other Internet-connected device (FitBits, etc.). This means no content streaming (NetFlix, etc.). You may read in any non-electronic media (print books, articles, newspapers, magazines, etc.).

Throughout your eFast, use pen/pencil and paper to record your experiences briefly in your Log.  In addition, note the challenges or opportunities you experience—in your routine, expectations, thinking, and feeling. Note the ways your life is changed.


Enjoy the reading and the adventure.  Happy Summer Assignment!


Looking forward to meeting you in person,

Manel Camps, Provost, Crown College