One of the best ways I’ve found to deal with colleagues or students who talk too much during group discussions is to give them a task. I’ve found keeping a record of the conversation to be useful — not only for dealing with the problem of fair distribution of talk, but for tracking and assessing the quality of our conversations.
I have used different column prompts based on what I’m interested in with a particular group. For example, in the chart below, I wondered how often people were just “sharing” and how often people posed a question that generated a genuine discussion. I also wanted an overview of a typical comment made by each study group member — over time, completed charts give me some material with which to do a discourse analysis.
Once I begin to see patterns emerge in the conversation data collected, I might rearrange seating, put certain people together in talking pairs, or play around with limiting conversational turns.
|Name||Check here if someone asked a question and got a response||Record the first words of a comment by this person|
When a person is recording data, s/he is not talking (ostensibly) for that particular session. If the overtalker is my data-gatherer for a day, she has been given an opportunity to see what just listening feels like. We can talk as a group about the definition of “participation” in our classes. Sometimes engaged listening is just as productive and participatory as active dialogue. I have also used charts like this a lot with my fifth-grade students when we had literature circles and a few kids were dominating the discussion. Ironically, my big talkers loved being the data recorders — go figure!
You can download a blank template of the “Conversation Turns” recording form by clicking on this link.