Three helpful principles
Thank you for volunteering to join a seven-week online discussion between schools on the Topical Talk Festival Hub. We’re delighted you can take part and we hope you will enjoy providing feedback to young people to develop their arguments. Here are three helpful principles to remember:
1. Acknowledge, summarise, question!
A good strategy is to:
- Acknowledge a contribution from a student – e.g. ‘That’s an interesting question’ / ‘that’s got me thinking’
- Summarise a point you want to push them further on, e.g. ‘you said… / I notice you stated that…’
- Question them to help develop their thinking.
2. Ask “contentless questions”
Help students to push past their initial opinions and reasons, and make them think more deeply, by asking “contentless questions.” The aim is to develop their thinking by asking skilful, non-leading questions, rather than for us to impose a view.
- What do you mean by that? (clarification)
- Can you say why? (justification)
- Can you give an example? (exemplification)
- Can you say more? (elicitation)
- How important is that? (evaluation)
- So, (anchoring)
We can use our judgement to choose when and how we ask them. You may think of other contentless questions too.
3. Challenge and clarify
News travels fast in today’s world, and our students don’t always hear the full story about something. You might spot a sweeping generalisation – e.g. ‘The NHS doesn’t have enough money for people’s operations’. It’s generally best to ask for the evidence. Their statement might be the result of hear ‘say, or a lack of understanding. A good rule of thumb is to state your own uncertainty about it before asking for evidence. e.g. ‘I’m not entirely sure about this – can you tell us where you found your evidence?’
It’s also fine to correct obvious misinformation, as it may lead to a chain of misinformed comments. It’s wise to correct it gently, with phrases like ‘It’s worth bearing in mind that…’, ‘let’s remember that…’ or ‘there seems to have a misunderstanding here, because… (and state the truth)’ . You can then ask if their opinion would still be the same in light of your clarification / correction.
- All comments are submitted to The Economist Educational Foundation team before being published, so you don’t need to worry about saying the wrong thing. Please feel free to go with your instincts when commenting. We might make minor edits to your comments before publishing them, but this would only be to make them more understandable for a young audience, or to ensure they only probe for deeper thinking.
- Controversial or offensive statements from children are rare, and anything that might touch a nerve is often due to a misunderstanding or clumsy wording. However, you can leave responding to these to us!
When and how?
- The discussion that you will join runs from April 10th until May 26th
- Your login details have been sent to you via email
- We are keen for volunteers to join the discussion every week. As a guide, we suggest planning to spend at least half an hour per week reading the students’ posts, picking comments to reply to and joining the discussion.
- All contributions are seen by us before they get published
- We work closely with teachers to ensure students have permission to go online and we are in close contact with them if we see student contributions that cause concern
- We hold no identifying information about students
- Our full safeguarding policy can be found at https://talk.economistfoundation.org/about/safeguarding/
We are here to help! If you have any questions or problems, email [email protected]
We are passionate about measuring our impact. You can see our most recent impact report here: www.economistfoundation.org/impact
With your support, Topical Talk students can make 150% more progress than their peers in one year in essential knowledge and skills. The time you spend reading and replying to comments helps students develop their ideas and confidence communicating about the news. Thank you for helping us to make a real difference to young people’s lives.