Learning and Leaning in/to the Fishbowl

This week I learned (or acutely reminded of) two elemental teaching and learning practice pieces. I should first, however, set the stage…

My passion for debate is often unquenchable. The opportunity to respectfully debate with others on topics of a passionate nature, “thems ma jams”. We have recently rebirthed the debate club at my school. The response and thirst for this have been unbelievable. The kids want to rumble. They want to incite. To clash. To learn. And of course, argue. I am also grateful that as a group of very small, disparate public school districts we have been able to keep the flame of argumentative discourse alive despite the numerous distractions and other more tantalizing extra-curricular opportunities for our students.

Learning in a (Fish)bowl

A really easy way to introduce the idea of debate and argumentative or persuasive writing, critical thinking, respectful discourse, listening, etc. into a classroom is through using the fishbowl method. A somewhat Socratic process, fishbowl discussions allow for open discussion and for students to participate at a level that they feel safe. It’s taking class discussions to the next level, of sorts.


One of our fishbowl discussion in action!

Leaning into the Unknown

You can plan and worry. And then worry and plan. But ultimately, the learning process drives itself. Once we release control of learning over to the learners we must also be prepared to let go of our preconceived expectations of what should happen. I am continually working to learn into the unknown and just let it ride! As many of my more progressive fellow educators know, once you give it over you experience…a freedom. Scary. But unworldly freeing.

Should it be ‘on them’

The responsibility to learn, seek answers to questions, and contribute to the creating a greater knowledge lays with the learners. After all, it is their learning. They should own it. And while we cannot fully predict the outcome, we always hope that our learners will consolidate new experiences with pre-existing understandings to create formal knowledge. Self-empowering for both learner and educator.

And how did those fishbowl discussions turn out?

Amazingly powerful. Each group was unique and the discussions took on lives of their own. Students that normally do not share in class felt emboldened and safe to take a risk and jump into the fray. To empower. To rumble. To share. And yes, perhaps unbeknownst to them, to learn.





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