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Stimulating Discussion: Agree or Disagree?

12 May 2021

In-class games can be a wonderful way to get students talking and to connect to societal issues. Your students may not be the chattiest bunch, especially if they are new to each other or are in large class groups. It takes a lot of confidence to be the one student to respond to a lecturer’s questions or prompts about a particular phenomenon and students may feel more confident participating in class if provided with some structure. Discussion and debate games or exercises help create a comfortable atmosphere for students to exchange perspectives and reach an understanding on a particular topic.

Through following a sequence of steps, the game mechanism will tap into students' individual understanding of a topic and organically encourage them to share, for example, a related article they read or a contextual experience they had in their hometown. Well-designed games will lead students to merge their real-world understandings with the disciplinary content they are studying and to grapple with how these two aspects interlink.  

Agree/Disagree Continuum 

You have lots of different options if interested in this approach. One option is to introduce an Agree/Disagree Continuum where students are invited to indicate whether they agree or disagree with a statement as a means of exchanging perspectives on topical, complex societal issues. In the below example, the teaching strategy focuses on public confidence in vaccinations and the science and research behind vaccines. The students are supplied with an Agree and Disagree card and a range of debate cards proposing a range of statements. In groups, students must collectively decide where they stand on issues raised in the debate cards, thus learning from each other, and coming to understand why particular opinions are formed. Here is what a debate card in the vaccine-themed exercise looks like: 

“The health authorities should be able to force families to vaccinate their children in communities where there is an outbreak of an infection compromising collective immunity.” 

Encouraging students to reflect on what they have just learned and probing how their perspectives have been challenged or otherwise, will reinforce the aims and objectives of your teaching activity. You could also schedule this game to be played at two or more intervals in the academic semester for example, the beginning and the end. This approach can help students understand how much their own perspectives have been shifted or otherwise throughout the course of the academic year. This teaching strategy is also referred to as a Barometer exercise and a video on its application can be watched here. 

Learning through classroom-based games is a great way to explore contentious issues and understand the wide range of factors affecting those issues. More game-related teaching strategies can be accessed on the Xplore Health webpage, and although these games centre on health-related topics, they can be readily adapted to most disciplinary areas.

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This Practice Insight is published by @UCC_CIRTL and @UCC_Civic as part of the CE Toolkit for embedding civic and community engagement in the curriculum. Discover more about How to Connect Societal Challenges here.

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