Dicussion Task Card & Planning Chart
Read and discuss the handout entitled Efferent Discussion.
Use the handout information as a guide to plan interactive discussion.
Record your plans in the Discussion Planning Chart.
Deliver the interactive discussion you have planned to your group.
1) Construct the following questions to launch interactive discussion:
Opening question (to introduce the topic of the text)
Efferent discussion questions (text-based)
2) Anticipate various reader responses to each of these questions as well as information from text one
might use as evidence to support a position or claim.
3) Determine what protocols will be used to ensure that discussion remains focused on text and student
responses include text evidence.
DISCUSSION PLANNING CHART
Discussion Questions Student Response Discussion Protocols
Opening Discussion: Efferent Discussion: What What What text What specific protocols could I
What question will I use text-based questions will potential information could use:
to introduce the text challenge students to position/claim students use as discussion remains focused
topic? think? could students evidence to support on text?
provide? their claim? students use text evidence
in their responses?
EXAMPLE: EXAMPLE: EXAMPLE: EXAMPLE: EXAMPLE:
Is the progress of Which characters Prometheus Prometheus was Ask follow-up question: What
Mankind worth: sacrificed something in the Heracles chained to rock. information in text leads you to
Much sacrifice? story? Traveler climbed make that claim?
Some sacrifice? the mountain.
PLANNING A COMPREHENSION LESSON: Discussion Task
What type of discussion is most effective?
Classroom discussion can be a worthwhile use of time; however, research points out that this is not
always the case. Researchers have examined three different types of classroom discussions for their
impact on student comprehension: (Kamil; Goldenberg, 1993; Beck & McKeown 2006)
Efferent discussion: This type of discussion maintains text as the focal point of the discussion.
Both teacher questions and student responses refer to the meaning of specific words and
phrases or images in text. Discussion participants do not discuss their feelings about what they
are reading; rather, they discuss information in text, the connecting ideas throughout the text,
and conclusions that can be made from those ideas presented by the author . Examples of an
efferent discussion include Questioning the Author or shared inquiry.
Afferent (expressive) discussion: This type of discussion entails affective response. Students
provide their opinions and reactions to text. Examples of afferent or expressive discussions include
literature circles and book clubs.
Critical analytic discussion: This type of discussion engages participants in debate. Collaborative
reasoning is an example of critical analytic discussion.
Of these three types, research results identified efferent discussion as the most beneficial. Efferent
discussions increase literal and inferential comprehension as well as critical thinking and reasoning.
This was found to be especially true for challenged readers.
What should I see in an efferent discussion?
Efferent class discussions are engaging, always relating back to the text. Discussion questions posed by
the teacher are text-based and, at times, press students to take a position or make a claim about a
specific aspect of the text. In response, students generate answers, present counter arguments, and
provide comments using information from text as evidence to support and justify their position, claim,
or argument. Typically, this creates a class dynamic that results in an interactive discussion with student
challenging another’s perspective about what was read from text.
How do I prepare for an efferent discussion?
An efferent discussion requires some preparation. Teachers will need to consider the text, specific text
concepts, and text-based questions that guide students to focus on information in text. Planning for an
efferent discussion requires careful selection of:
a text that will engage and stimulate discussion.
a text with content that supports a variety of positions, claims, or argument.
cognitively challenging questions that:
o elicit a reader’s position, claim, or opinion about text content.
o follow-up student responses to extend the discussion, clarify different interpretations,
and explain reasoning behind a position, claim, or opinion about the text content.
EXAMPLES of TEXT-BASED QUESTIONS for EFFERENT DISCUSSION
Which of the arguments in this essay were the most effective in supporting the author’s viewpoint?
What did the author mean by the statement “ . . . . . . . . . ” ?
How does the information in this paragraph connect with what the author wrote earlier in the text?
What is the author trying to say here?
What is my role as a teacher in an efferent discussion?
Teachers play a vital role in an efferent discussion. The goal of an efferent discussion is to allow
participants opportunity throughout the discussion to extract information from the text, making and
supporting viable points using text evidence. This requires that text remain the primary influence upon
the discussion. As the manager of an efferent discussion, it is important that the classroom teacher
refrain from competing with text as the source of information during the discussion. Teachers need
to remember that the discussion belongs to the students because the work of extracting information
from text requires their efforts. It is their learning opportunity. The teacher sets the tone and pattern
for discussion by the role that he or she assumes; therefore, the role of the teacher is to remain
What can I do to maintain a neutral stance for an efferent discussion?
Maintaining the role as facilitator with a neutral stance ensures that students are welcome to share
their text interpretations and reasoning without judgment throughout the discussion. Effective
contributions that a teacher can make to create an efferent discussion include:
Leading students back to the text
Challenging students to support their position or claim about the text
Asking questions that guide students to question the text or their position/claim about the text
Any comments or body language that teachers display to discourage students from relying on the text
as their primary source of information during discussion will derail the text extraction process and goal
of an efferent discussion. Teachers need to know specifically what types of things they can say or do to
sustain an efferent discussion. Any of the following are appropriate for an efferent discussion:
Paraphrasing what they hear students say during discussion that may need clarification for the
benefit of the listeners
Posing a question to the entire group to grapple with an issue that the group may not have yet
considered during the course of their discussion
Pointing out some specific information from texts that are open to various interpretations,
followed by a question such as, “What do you think the author was thinking when he/she wrote
What do I need to do to I elicit efferent discussion responses?
An efferent discussion elicits student investment in the discussion. It takes a well-crafted question to
simultaneously grab student interest, focus student attention on the topic, and launch a quality
discussion. This attending-grabbing question needs to guide all class members to take a position so
that, by the end of the discussion, students find a purpose for reading the text. In order to create
these discussion dynamics, the opening question requires strategic planning of the following two
format of the question.
teacher expectation of student response to the question.
A teacher’s discussion questions can either launch or stifle a discussion. The way that the question is
constructed forces student involvement in the topic as long as the teacher expects a response from all
students in the class. The question format of an efferent question includes two parts:
Question Stem/Topic: The first part of the question is the stem. It is written in question form and
focuses on a relevant topic that can capture student interest. Topics that challenge student
thinking such as those involving contrasts or cause/effect relationships can entice student
interests and concerns. The question stem takes a broad perspective of the topic of the specific
text that students are reading. As an example, the following stem focuses on the broad topic of
“historical impact” (cause/effect relationship), Dynasties to Communism: “Based on your
perspective of the text information, how much has history impacted the lives of the Chinese
people today?” .
Student Options: The question stem segues into a corresponding list of options that present a
range of perspectives from which students can choose and plays the important role of setting the
class up for maximum engagement in class discussion. Using the earlier stem example for the
text, Dynasties to Communism, the corresponding list of student options could include the
o history has much impact on the present
o history has some impact on the present
o history has little impact on the present SAMPLE EFFERENT TEXT-BASED
In the box to the right are samples of efferent questions,
Based on the text information, how much
complete with stem and student options. As teachers control do we have over own lives?
practice constructing a list of options for their own Much control
questions, they need to make sure that the options Some control
reflect a varying continuum of two or three choices. Little control
According to the text, how valuable has space
two opposing perspectives: agree or disagree travel been to the progress of Mankind?
three different qualifiers: always, sometimes, or never Very valuable
Of little value
As a second planning element, teacher expectations
of the discussion can produce student investment in or Which do you think is most true after reading
student detachment from discussion topic. For instance, the author’s essay?
asking three or four students (one at a time) to respond Happiness is something you create.
to a question will precipitate minimal discussion. To set Happiness is something that you find.
discussion dynamics in motion, the better approach is to
ask all students in the class to:
think about the options presented in the question.
briefly discuss with a partner.
Each individual student takes a position by voting (i.e., raise of hand) for the option of their choice,
prepared to justify their position in large group. Throughout this discussion, the teacher uses contrasts in
student response as the basis for deciding who to call upon for comment. This fuels the discussion. The
expectation that each speaker provide explanation for his or her position is consistently enforced. Such
expectations stir students’ investment in the topic and maximize student engagement in their own
How do I implement and manage an efferent discussion in my classroom?
In order to successfully create and manage an efferent discussion in the classroom, teachers will need
to foster a classroom environment that is supportive and encouraging. To accomplish this, it is
necessary to develop, model, and clearly communicate specific guidelines and procedures regarding:
active listening, and
constructive responses to questions or statements made by fellow classmates.
Efferent discussion protocols set expectations for students to adhere to the guidelines during the course
of a discussion. These protocols will also redirect conversation that strays from the text. When
determining protocols for efferent discussion, it is important to keep in mind the expectation is that:
the text remains the focal point of discussion.
the purpose of the discussion is for students to apply text information toward critical thinking.
participation in discussion reaches a maximum level – full class participation
EXAMPLES of SOME EFFERENT DISCUSSION PROTOCOLS
(Murphy, Wilkinson, Soter, Hennessey, & Alexander, 2009)
Student Protocol Teacher Support of Protocol
Ask questions that require students to explain their positions
Explain positions, claims, and reasoning and the reasoning behind them.
Acknowledge sound reasoning when it occurs.
Conduct a think-aloud for those text segments students find
Use specific text evidence to support position, claim, or Ask questions that include the requirement of using text evidence
argument about what has been read that supports their position and reasoning.
Model the proposal of counter arguments by making statements
Propose counter arguments or modified positions such as “Is it possible that this text information has a bias?” This
challenges students to dig deeper into text.
Randomly call on students to respond to discussion questions,
Everyone participates in discussion positions, claims, or arguments.
Model the process and habit of summarizing a discussion before
Summarize main ideas or points of a discussion asking students to summarize a discussion
Tools for instruction and assessment will reflect protocols for certain aspects of efferent discussion.
Rubrics such as the one below can be used to:
conduct a think-aloud for modeling expectations (i.e., using text evidence to support and justify
positions, claims, and arguments).
clarify and remind students of important protocols that they need to develop into habits of mind as
they read and think about text.
Sample Text-Based Discussion Rubric
Expectations Above Standard Grade-Level Standard Below Standard
Speaker exhibits thorough Speaker exhibits familiarity Speaker exhibits limited
familiarity with text and draws with text, including an familiarity with text, including
several inferences inference. limited inferences
Text Use Speaker accurately and Speaker seldom or inaccurately
frequently refers to specific Speaker accurately refers to refers to text
parts of text to: text to:
- locate answers to questions - locate answers to
- restate ideas questions
- identify evidence to support, - restate ideas
justify, and validate his/her - identify evidence to
position or claim support justify his/her
position or claim
Claim: Speaker supports claim Claim: Speaker supports claim Claim: Speaker attempts to
with many relevant details with relevant detail support claim using irrelevant or
Analysis: Rationale is logical and Analysis: Rationale is logical weak details
Reasoning speaker considers multiple or and includes an alternative Analysis: Uses limited logical
extraordinary viewpoints viewpoint analysis and/or fails to consider
Conclusion: Speaker provides Conclusion: Speaker provides alternative viewpoints
coherent conclusion by: coherent conclusion by: Conclusion: Speaker attempts to
- making strong connections - making some provide coherent conclusion:
between relevant ideas, including those connections between - makes few or weak
that can be inferred relevant ideas connections between ideas,
- resolving contradictions - resolving contradictions including those either
irrelevant or weak
- fails to resolve contradictions