Five people's arms and fists in a five-way fist-bump. Below the fists is a bottle of water and jar of granola.

Group-led discussion

Now that you've read a variety of public writing both in print and around the web, it's time to go out in search of public writing that interests you. Paper IV will ask you to produce a piece of public writing that's in conversation with other people's work. To prepare for that assignment, you and your classmates will identify essays that you find interesting and exemplary and then lead the class in a discussion of your chosen readings.

Working in groups of three, you will identify two pieces of public writing that work well as a pair. It's up to you to decide how and why the essays work together--they could, of course, be about similar topics, but that's not the only relationship that might exist between the two essays. They might be written in a similar style, or address a similar audience. They could be about different subjects, but be examples of a single genre. You have a lot of flexibility in defining the relationship.

The texts you assign should, like our readings from Unit II, be substantial, in-depth pieces. They should be non-fiction, at least 1500 words long, and advance an argument or thesis (as we've discussed, the thesis need not be argumentative or oppositional, but you should be able to identify concrete claims that the author is making). You will distribute the readings to your classmates and then lead them in a discussion of the reading, which you will structure around 3-5 discussion questions that your group composes.

Requirements and timeline

Each group should complete the following steps, paying careful attention to the timeline. Coordinating reading assignments and discussion can be a complicated job with lots of moving pieces, so you want to make sure you give yourselves enough time for each step.

At least two weeks before your discussion date

Identify a list of potential essays and discuss them as a group. What are the benefits and drawbacks of each essay? What are some possible pairs of essays? Consider using to annotate and discuss the suggested essays.

After discussing the essays (virtually and/or in person), pick the two that you want your classmates to read. Make sure your group has come to a clear consensus on why these two essays work well together.

Three class days before your discussion

Post the readings to your blog. Each group member should create a blog post announcing the two essays. As with all of your blog posts, you'll want to consider both content and design. How do you want to introduce the essays? How can you get your readers excited about reading the essays? You might consider adding pull-quotes, images or other elements to highlight what you consider the most engaging parts of the essays.

Once you've created your blog post, promote it. Aim to get as many of your classmates to use your blog post as a launchpad to the essays as you can. In addition, send a link to your blog post to me, and I will add it to the course page.

At least two days before your discussion

As a group, create a list of 3-5 discussion questions to guide your discussion. These questions should be designed to help your classmates analyze the essays. They should encourage discussions similar to those that we have had in class throughout the term about the structure, interpretations and contexts for the essays.

Keep in mind that the discussion should be analytic in nature, and should avoid personal opinion or extended reflection on whether your classmates personally agree with the subject matter of the essay or the author's position. Your discussion questions should help your classmates stay focused on analysis.

The day of your discussion

As a group, you will lead your classmates in a discussion of the readings, using your discussion questions as a guide. Your goal is to have a robust conversation about the texts, which means you should try to get your classmates to do most of the talking.

The class day after the discussion

Your group will submit a reflection and evaluation to the “Group-led discussion” folder on Sakai. This document should have three parts:

  1. Materials from the discussion. Citations for your two essays and the 3-5 discussion questions you composed in preparation for the discussion.
  2. Reflection on your readings: Approximately 500 words describing why your chose the readings you did and demonstrating how they work together. You should write this section before the class discussion.
  3. Evaluation of the class discussion: Approximately 500 words describing and evaluating the class discussion. What were your goals? What went well? What was less successful? What conclusions did the class reach about the readings?

You should write the reflection and evaluation as a group. As with any piece of writing for this class, it should be organized into paragraphs and have clearly identifiable main claims and evidence to support those claims.

Posting and discussion schedule

Group Post readings by Discussion date
Group 1 Wednesday, 11/7 Wednesday, 11/14
Group 2 Friday, 11/9 Friday, 11/16
Group 3 Monday, 11/19 Monday, 11/26
Group 4 Wednesday, 11/21 Wednesday, 11/28
Group 5 Wednesday, 11/23 Wednesday, 11/30


Your group-led discussion is worth 15 points. The table below explains how the first 14 points are distributed. After each discussion, the other members of the class will evaluate the discussion leaders. You will receive the final point for fully and thoughtfully evaluating the four other discussion groups.

Category Description Value
Readings and discussion questions
  • Readings meet length and content requirements
  • Readings are posted to each group member's blog by the deadline
  • Discussion questions address the readings in context and in relation to one another
  • Discussion questions are open-ended and leave room for discussion
  • Discussion questions focus on analysis of the way the readings work
4 points
Class discussion
  • Group members spend less than 1/4 of the class time talking
  • Group members listen to and follow up on classmates’ comments
  • Group members encourage and re-start discussion by asking questions, rather than giving answers
  • Group members keep discussion focused on analysis
3 points
Reflection and evaluation
  • Reflection and evaluation make clear and specific claims
  • Reflection and evaluation support those claims with specific examples from the readings and class discussion
  • Reflection and evaluation demonstrate thoughtful analysis of the readings, the content of the discussion, and the research and discussion-leading process
7 points