Tips for Leading a Discussion

  1. Normalizing common challenges 
    • Assign students as experts (benefactors, not beneficiaries 
    • Connect concerns to transition, not self 
    • Frame concerns are temporary 
  2. Gradually build disclosure 
    • Ice-breaker 
    • Write 3 good and 3 bad experiences on sticky notes 
    • Share own experiences 
  3. Humanize experience in the classroom 
    • Change construal of environment as collaborative 
    • Invites them to connect on human level 

Some tips for leading a discussion with your students about their experiences: 

  • Frame this as a process that you, as a representative of the Law School, are using to understand current students' experiences. 
  • If speaking to a group that doesn’t know you well, consider using an ice breaker, maybe asking them to share a guilty pleasure and share your response with the students. 
  • Start the discussion with small, easy, engaging questions that don't require too much personal vulnerability at first. . (e.g., "Do you feel that job prospects have been helped or hurt by this?", "What are the biggest challenges that students might be facing?" “What are the biggest challenges of online learning?”)  
  • Consider using a poll or a yes/no question at the start.  (e.g., "Do you think that law students are impacted by Covid?") 
  • Then move to more open-ended questions that students can respond to  anonymously. Share these responses, maybe sharing common themes through a word cloud or displaying short answers.  (e.g., “What’s going well? What’s not going so well?”, “How are you feeling about Pitt Law at this moment?”)  
  • Then reiterate a few of the themes that might have come out of the first round of questions, and then ask if any of those relate to their own experiences. Hopefully this will get people talking, and all you have to do is keep the conversation moving by trying to see that "every voice is heard.”  
  • You don't want to dive into problems without then shifting to positives/strategies/insights at the end of the discussion. 
  • Try to finish early and thank them for their courage for coming out and sharing their thoughts.  
  • Invite them to reach out with any questions or follow up comments that they might have not had a chance to mention.