Feminism in the Workplace:
Field Study in Women's and Gender Studies
Facilitating Class Discussion
Work in a team to select readings and facilitate a class session. Each class session will include four components: a warm-up/check-in, a "non-quiz," an open circle, and closing reflections. These four components are described lower down on this page.
Also below: a special set of tips brainstormed by members of the Fall '08 class.
Step 1. Select readings for the class session.
Things to consider in making your selection:
- The readings should come from the SOCS resource library or one of the websites listed on the reading sources page. SOCS includes articles chosen by students in past semesters as well as the articles you select at the beginning of the semester. This page includes links to students' reviews of some of the articles.
- As a group, choose a maximum of three sources, and not more than 40 pages. With some readings, 25 pages may be plenty to spark a thoughtful discussion.
- Where are we in the semester? What kinds of readings seem to you most appropriate--for starting the semester's conversation, for continuing themes that have already come up, for going into depth on topics we haven't explored much?
- Which titles spark your interest--for whatever reason? Which seem best to relate to your internships, your questions and visions about your life, and the broader picture of women/gender/feminism/sexuality and work (historically, theoretically)?
Step 2. Read your selection thoroughly and critically. Get a grasp of the facts presented, the theoretical issues, and the author's approach. Consider what you want the class to grasp and what questions you could raise for discussion, and create a 1-2 page outline of the points you think these readings will help you cover. (You'll hand in this outline at the time of your facilitation session.)
Step 3. Prepare yourselves as facilitators. Talk with each other about how group process works and how you, as feminists, want to guide the group. The facilitation books on reserve in the library have a lot of good ideas for warm-ups and other kinds of learning exercises; review one or more of them for inspiration. Most basic: think about HOW YOU'RE GOING TO TAKE CHARGE OF TIME. (There's never enough of it.)
Step 4. Plan the four components, dividing up the labor as you see fit.
Step 5. Facilitate!
The four components
1. Warm-up/Check-in (about 15 minutes):
Your aim is to get everybody into the room together in as many dimensions as possible--intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually as well as physically. How you do this is up to you. You can use a warm-up/icebreaking exercise, a "check-in" process, or both.
A "warm-up" can be as simple as a stretching and breathing exercise or as goofy as a song you make up to teach everyone. Call on your own talents, interests, and experiences--and consult the facilitation books on reserve in the library if you'd like to find some tried-and-true ideas.
A "check-in" involves going around the circle, with everyone having the opportunity to speak to a question or topic that you pose. You might ask everyone, for instance, to talk about what they care about, problems or satisfactions from their internships, what it means to be feminist. The purpose is not to get them talking about the readings yet--it's to help everyone make the transition from the rest of their lives to a focused and intense experience with each other. Comments and responses and advice are held back--this is not a time for discussion.
Keep in mind the size of the class as you plan this component. If the class has over 15 members, consider doing check-ins in two-person partnerships or in small groups.
2. The non-quiz (about 15 minutes):
The purpose of the non-quiz is to hold your classmates accountable for having done the reading. There's lots of room for creativity here. You could actually give a quick quiz based on the reading, playing around with the standard formats (multiple choice, open book, true/false, short essay, identification). You could present the class with an example--a picture, a fact, a quote--that illustrates the reading and have them write briefly in class about how it relates to the reading. You could ask each person to find and read a key passage in the reading, or you could pass out copies of passages you consider most significant and have teams race to locate those passages in the text. You could get small groups involved in creating dramatizations of scenes related to the reading. Save time for feedback afterwards. Ask the participants to reflect on the the "non-quiz" experience and what it meant in the context of the week's readings.
3. Open Circle (45 minutes to an hour)
Plan how you will get the group started in thinking about what really matters about the reading. You'll start with the readings and any supplemental materials you'd like to bring in (whether statistics or stories or exercises or music or art), but what you're really looking for is the "so what" of the readings. What about the topic you've chosen engages other class members at a passionate level? What questions do they raise that you may not have considered as you planned the session?
Digressions are good--but learning communities do their best work when discussions aren't just left to fall apart, but are guided back into focus after the digressions have refreshed the group's way of thinking about an issue.
In guiding the discussion, consider how you will open up opportunities for people to connect the central topic to their internships. Further, think about ways of guiding the conversation toward our agency as feminists and workers: effective strategies, possible solutions, ways of negotiating the problems, ways of finding balance and consoling ourselves, successes to celebrate.
As facilitators, pay careful attention to the dynamics of the discussion and encourage balance and depth to develop. Consider strategies (such as small groups or dyads) for bringing people into the discussion whose voices may be overpowered by the active, enthusiastic participation of other class members.
What the open circle is not: It's not a group presentation, chock-full of facts.
4. Reflections (about 15 minutes)
Save time to guide us all in thinking back on what we've done in the class session, consider the implications of the discussion, and think about what we as individuals or a group might work on next. Ask questions like: What will you take away from this discussion? What new awareness or new questions do you have? How might you, or we as a group, follow up on what we've learned today?
Don't forget to hand in your outline!
Expectations of the facilitation group