SOS: Nowhere To Hide

Casey Douglas EDIM508


The learning environment of a classroom is enhanced when students participate in and offer meaningful contributions to classroom discussions. Whole class discussions offer many benefits to students, including increased perspective-taking, understanding empathy, development of higher order thinking skills, encourages respect, and promotes democratic discourse (Finley, 2013). Teachers can take the first step in engaging students in lively discussions by selecting topics that are interesting to students and that allow for the element of debate. For example, the debate over whether or not to raise the federal minimum wage directly impacts secondary students of working age, may impact members of their family or friends, and certainly allows for political, social, and economic disagreement.

However, even with a carefully selected topic teachers may find it difficult to generate a lively discussion because many students (depending upon the personalities in the classroom) shy away from arguing their opinion in front of the entire class. Despite the efforts of a teacher to promote whole class discussions, including setting a warm climate at the beginning of the semester, considering the physical set-up of the room, providing students background knowledge, allowing enough time for student responses, and even modeling respectful discussion etiquette, it may be difficult to extract the opinions and viewpoints of the students.

The nominal group discussion technique involves the use of anonymous comments or questions written down by students, collected by the teacher, then redistributed to the class to offer during a discussion (“Facilitating a discussion,” 2013).

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  • In this example, students will have some background knowledge of the economic theory behind price floors and the minimum wage, whether through classroom instruction or readings.

  • Instruct students to create a three-column chart with one column titled “Raise the Minimum Wage,” the second “Maintain the Minimum Wage,” and the third “Eliminate the Minimum Wage.”

  • Students will list arguments they already know based on prior instruction and background reading

  • Show the students the following websites and images and ask the students questions to check for understanding and discuss key takeaways of information and data:

  1. “Minimum Wage Laws in the States---Jan. 1 2014” statistics (
  2. “Spent” game (
  3. “The Minimum Wage Debate” infographic (
  4. “Should We Raise the Minimum Wage” infographic (

  • Play the following video clips and instruct the students to list additional arguments in the appropriate columns:

  1. “Milton Friedman on the Minimum Wage” (
  2. “Rep. Pocan on Poverty and Minimum Wage” (
  3. “White House Defends Report That Millions Could Soon Be Unemployed” (

  • Distribute a notecard to each student and instruct them to anonymously explain what they feel is the strongest argument in favor of raising, maintaining, or eliminating the minimum wage. This argument should reflect what they believe should be done about the federal minimum wage.

  • Collect the notecards and redistribute to the students. Go around the room and have each student read their notecard while the teacher or a volunteer student lists the responses on the board.

  • Once all responses have been recorded, generate a whole class discussion on what the students believe are the weakest/strongest arguments for each viewpoint, effective counter arguments to what is listed, and ultimately their own viewpoint.


  • Select an appropriate and engaging topic to discuss or debate related to your curriculum standards

  • Provide students background knowledge of the topic through classroom instruction or background readings

  • Select several digital media sources to view that deepens the topic with main arguments and supporting details

  • Engage students in the nominal discussion technique

  • Debrief effective discussion/debate techniques and proper civil discourse etiquette


Facilitating a discussion. (2013, June 16). Teaching Effectiveness Program, University of Oregon. Retrieved February 8, 2014 from

Finley, T. (2013, June 24). Rethinking Whole Class Discussion. Edutopia. Retrieved January 1, 2014, from