When it comes to discussion, consider equity of opportunity rather than airtime | Liza Garonzik | 5 Min Read

December 28, 2022

Any teacher who has ever run a discussion-based classroom will tell you that they want it to be equitable and that all students should be heard—that no one voice dominates. Many teachers even use tools—like Harkness Webs or Equity Maps—to track how many times, and for how many minutes, each student speaks. The goal here is admirable: make an abstract concept, “equity,” concrete and visible. But too often, students walk away from these experiences focused on speaking the “right” amount of times—not actually feeling belonging. 

Today’s discussion dilemma

How can you dig deeper than airtime in measuring equity in a class discussion? 

My response

Instead of measuring airtime (“how many times/minutes did you speak?”), consider focusing on equity of opportunity (“Do you feel like you can get your voice in when you have something to say? Do you feel like classmates listen when you speak? Do you know what success looks like for you in a discussion?). 

The knee-jerk response

How on earth do I do that? This sounds way more complicated than pie slices and spider web diagrams. 

Why it matters 

Building a culture where it’s not just about did-you-talk but it’s did-you-feel-heard will have…

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Liza Garonzik

Liza Garonzik is the Founder of R.E.A.L. Discussion, a program that trains faculty to (re)teach Gen-Z students the discussion skills they need for success in learning — and real life. Her work is informed by an interdisciplinary research base and experience as a student, teacher, administrator, and trustee in diverse independent schools. Get in touch at [email protected] — there's little she loves more than a great conversation!