Serial Killers: Destroying the Serial Monologue
Innovative and Practical Applications for Facilitating Substantive Class Discussions
in an Asynchronous Learning Environment
Enoch Hale et al. (list contributors)
Draft Updated: 3/17/14
This document outlines numerous suggestions or methods for stimulating engaged discussions and learning. The recommendations are contextualized to address asynchronous learning environments; however, with adjustments they are applicable to any learning space where one seeks to engage students in meaningful discussions. The present activities are suggested templates that must be appropriately contextualized to meet one’s exact instructional conditions. Furthermore, working deeply with a few is more useful and effective than implementing many poorly. This work does not attempt to cover everything. The present compilation is a brief guide, but it is no way a comprehensive list.
Although each strategy has been practiced by the authors in their own instruction, they come from a robust scholarship of teaching and learning. None of the strategies listed here are identical to their creators, but their original work provides additional information and insights that can be useful when considering how to design one’s instruction. Each of the sources consulted for this text provide elaborations on underlying theory and, in some cases, application. It would be wise to read these, and other sources, when exploring the pedagogical implications of what is included here. Finally, this is a working list which continues to grow. There is a complete list of sources at the end of this document.
Since the purpose of these activities is to promote intellectual development (skills, insights and dispositions), prior to beginning any activity instructors should ask themselves the following question: What intellectual product should result from this activity? Stated differently, what intellectual skills, insights and/or attitudes do I want students to gain from participating in this activity? This emphasis cannot be understated because “learning is a consequence of thinking” (Perkins, Smart Schools, 1992). Our goal is to promote deep learning, which is accomplished when we promote deep thinking. Let the instructional purpose guide the application understanding that if the context changes, then the purpose of the activity may change/shift. Any shift will require that the structure of the activity be reassessed.
Every strategy is based on providing students with specific lenses by which to direct their inquiry, analyses, evaluations, and constructions. The primary claim is: An effective method for confronting the problem of the serial monologue involves providing students with structured frames that target different intellectual tasks. Central to this is the utilization of our peers, colleagues and students as intellectual resources, collaborators, co-creators, and co-problem solvers. In the context of the classroom it is a way to explicitly think about the intellectual moves we make and become more aware of additional learning resources and strategies we can add to our intellectual repertoire.
We follow a general structure for organizing the instructional ideas. We begin with a general categorical topic. For example, “critical listening,” “thinking with illustrations,” “developing questioning skills,” and so forth. Each strategy is given a title that attempts to capture the methodological essence of the routine much like what Ritchhart, Church and Morrison do in their seminal text Making Thinking Visible. We then layout an organizing principle that points to deeper theoretical foundations. Recommended applications are then suggested. In this context, the structure of the application is intended to provide a general approach; however, one’s instructional context will determine the exact manifestation. It is important to keep the thinking goal (intellectual outcomes) in mind at every stage of the activity or it runs the risk of superficial application. Finally, we provide a few suggestions for assessment knowing that assessment must be focused and robust to be meaningful and corrective. The general structure of each activity can be listed as follows: