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The Discussion Book: 50 Great Ways to Get People Talking Paperback – January 19, 2016
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"The Discussion Book" offers new ways to engage people and energize groups; will get employees, students, colleagues, constituents, and community members to participate more fully in deliberative decision-making; encourage creativity and openness to new perspectives; increase collaboration and build cohesive teams; and keep groups focused on important topics and hard-to-address issues." (Reviewer's Bookwatch, May 2016)
From the Back Cover
BUILD TEAMS, MAKE BETTER DECISIONS, ENERGIZE GROUPS, AND THINK OUT OF THE BOX
"Brookfield and Preskill's discussion techniques eliminate classroom power dynamics and provide equal opportunity for both introverts and extroverts to fully engage in the learning. These techniques will transform how you lead, manage, teach, and facilitate."
Ruth Gotian, Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program, Weill Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan-Kettering Hospital
"The authors have created a powerful compendium of discussion-based activities that can be used in classrooms at all levels. This book has not only become a staple in my teaching process, but just as importantly in my personal life. The Discussion Book is an important read for educators, students, and groups looking to engage in democratic action in all facets of life."
Jarritt Sheel, adjunct professor of liberal arts and sciences, Guttman Community College CUNY
"The Discussion Book is an ideal text for the work in transformative learning used in the leadership seminars of United Methodist Women. With this book, adult leaders and learners are provided 'access' to the teaching skills of Brookfield and Preskill. What a gift!"
Faye Wilson, director, GeeFaye Associates, and transformative learning trainer with United Methodist Women
"This book launches my practice into a world of possibilities. The candidness of the format and the detailing of how, why, and where each technique will work (or not work) gives me a brilliantly clear sense of each technique's potential to create effective, empowering learning experiences."
Bobbi Smith, anti-racism consultant and educator, British Columbia
"Brookfield and Preskill's work inspired a Marine Corps-wide movement for more inclusive and participatory training and education. The tools, techniques, and procedures found in this text reach audiences well beyond the typical classroom."
Captain Shawn McCann, US Marine Corps, Train the Trainer School
Top customer reviews
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This discussion book is a great boon, and one that I read through and will keep by my side, practicing with the different techniques. It is framed more in terms of goals, what you're wanting to accomplish or do in a conversation, then pointing towards good techniques for getting discussions started. It's the start that's the tricky bit, an inviting discussion takes on its own energies, which is great, but needs initiation. And sometimes need redirection or refocus. Having a quiver of themes and approaches can bring a welcomed variety to the usual.
Brookfield and Preskill offer a very user friendly manual, that offers good description and explanation for each type of discussion question. It's very readable and lacks the mumbo-jumbo of a business/academic lingo. That means it's really suitable for a broad range of audiences. I love this because so often books like these are about showing how much the authors know, but here, the authors are themselves inviting us into a discussion of discussions.
The one issue I have with it is that it only has a small number of example questions in each type. It is heavy on the reasoning and explanation and description (though heavy is relative in such a readable text), but tacks on example questions at the end of each chapter almost as an afterthought.
That's not a huge problem, as given the background and explanation spur creative engagement by the discussion leader in their specific goals and topics. But, it does make this book a little less immediately applicable. It's not a book of conversation starters, or icebreakers. It's a guide for substantive conversations that can apply to almost any discussion. I am going to use this a lot, and already wish I had it in the past. Definitely recommend
The book is not organized thematically, which might have been a help. There are suggested links, but each chapter offers one specific discussion prompt.
As for the prompts, they are more weighted toward business settings where group participation is a little more expected. In an academic setting, the challenge is sometimes getting the students motivated at all! But, there are a few good ideas that I can use...and many of the business-type prompts can certainly fit in the classroom with some re-configuring.
I liked how simple the book is - it describes the prompt, explains what situation it will work best in, defines possible problems, and helpfully explains why the participants might like it. A lot of time with group work, it SEEMS like busy work to the students because it isn't clear what the takeaway is meant to be - because Stephen Brookfield has provided his take that I can use that to say "here's the point." Obviously, I should do that anyway, but a lot of times I forget that students can't magically read my mind. Brookfield's summary is useful in that regard.
"Hatful of quotes" for instance - it would push students to respond to a specific part of a text, and would enable the whole class to respond. It's not a revolutionary idea, but I liked how Brookfield broke it all down for me.
I might have wanted more of an academic focus, but that's not what the book promised to be - and like I said, I can put my own spin on these prompts. With 50 to work with, this should give me some good ideas.