Discussion Questions

human speech

In addition to the two major course projects, you will post Discussion Questions (about 400 words) to some selected readings on the class WordPress page at 8pm on the Sunday before our first meeting of the week.  I will split the class into three sections of 7-8 which will rotate weeks posting DQs.  Everyone will have written two Discussion Questions by about mid-semester.  Everyone will be required to write three comments (50-100 words a piece) on their classmates’ DQs, including those who have written their own for that week.  You are encouraged to respond to the writers’ DQs as well as to the comments of others.  Still, you will all want to get commenting quickly so as to keep the conversation going and not come in to it so late that there’s nothing left to say.

Some Guidelines:

Discussion questions are not test questions. Answers to them cannot be chosen from a list—they require engagement, extension, and more writing. The purpose of a test question is to close off further inquiry and settle the problem posed; surely, there is not an option “E” that allows you to question the basis of the question in order to find more conclusions than those already provided. Discussion questions generate conversation rather than answers; we can talk “about” something and come to some conclusions, but we can never close it (or even the conclusions) off to further questions.

Still, while they are relatively conversational, discussion questions should model methods of academic or theoretical inquiry.  Think of them as short essays if it works for you.  You should quote and synthesize the ideas of others effectively before introducing your own angle.  In addition, attempt to question the intellectual basis of an argument you are writing questions on; how do the author’s latent biases show in his or her writing? How are certain words functioning in unexpected ways, or in what ways are certain words being used by an author? Are there other things going on that we can attend to that generate meanings outside of the text?  Conversely, where (the news, television shows, movies, songs, images, advertisements, etc.) can we take a text in order to better understand it?  Especially write with a mind toward conversation–don’t launch an all-out attack on a side or position one of your commenters might have taken if you didn’t make them afraid of you!

When commenting, aim to further the ideas of the writer, rather than just affirm them by finding ways of rewriting “Great post!” over and over.  Try to understand, summarize, and synthesize the writer’s ideas and questions and then engage in a conversation with them.  This first part is important: rewrite or reword what you understand to be the author’s ideas before introducing your own.  If you agree with an interpretation, idea, or whatever, say way; if you disagree, say why.  In this way, comments are very similar to reader-responses.

We will regularly weave your writings on WordPress into class discussion and view them on the projector.  Keep in mind your classmates and I will be reading your writing, so while this assignment does not count for as much as your others, this is an exercise in writing for an audience where you will want to be able to say something substantive elegantly.

Some more specific rules:

  1. DQs and comments MUST refer to the text(s) at hand and demonstrate you’ve read them.  This means you should quote and interpret what you quote.  In this way, they are basically quizzes (I do not want to give in-class quizzes, but will if necessary).  It is very clear when questions are written on something you haven’t read.
  2. DQs should have a TITLE that in some way relates to the content of your questions.  Puns and wordplay are highly encouraged, so long as they’re relevant and not irreverent!
  3. DQs should have three “tags” with key words or phrases from your questions (put them in the field for this in WordPress).
  4. DQs should be placed in the correct Category every week.  These will be labeled according to the reading, sometimes in some kind of code.  However, they will not be labeled in a secret code.  You should post DQs in the correct categories for the readings they respond to.
  5. BIG WORDS should be looked up in the Oxford English Dictionary accessible through the UD Library databases system.  I will give a short tutorial on how to access the OED early in the semester.