Possible Ways to Conclude Deliberative Practices
Like the diverse types of deliberative exercises—from discussion to dramatization to debate—there are equally diverse means to conclude these activities. Any of the following activities can serve as a way to wrap-up deliberation exercises. While there are both advantages and disadvantages listed for each activity, the exercises proposed can prepare students for future participation in deliberative forums.
Voting: Students can vote at the end of a deliberative exercise, endorsing or refuting particular viewpoints.. Disadvantage: Some students might be alienated if they are in the minority. Voting may also give students the impression that “the issue is decided” and they need not continue their deliberation. Advantage: Students get a clear picture of who supports what ideas.
Consensus-building: Students could be asked to come to a consensus on the problem diagnosis, the judgment criteria, and/or a final decision. Consensus could mean “complete” consensus with every person assenting, or could mean a “super-majority” of group members assenting. Disadvantage: Consensus is often times impossible to develop. Teachers facilitating consensus often have to be very skilled at finding points of agreement. The more aggressive or gregarious students can persuade classmates into consensus. Advantage: Encouraging students to find a common ground that they can all agree upon, and teaching them about alternative ways in which they can make decisions can provide useful models for future action.
Minority/Majority reports: Much like the Supreme Court, this process of concluding a deliberative exercise would split the class into two parts: a majority and a minority where each group assembles a report to summarize their conclusions. Students can then agree with part of the majority report, part of the minority report, or reports in their entirety. Disadvantage: Necessitates a fair amount of class time to implement. Emphasis on individual response sacrifices collective decision-making. Advantage: Provides students with a complicated model of decision-making that is not necessarily either/or, but explores the shades of grey inherent in all decisions. Encourages small group work and facilitates self-expression of individual viewpoints.
Question and answer: Critical issues can be turned over and further scrutinized by an in-depth question and answer session, either between instructor and students or among the students themselves. This provides an opportunity for some people to involve themselves in the conversation in a way that does not require them to take a defined position on the issue. Disadvantage: Students might not have quality questions to contribute. Students’ answers might display evasiveness or ignorance. Advantage: Encourages further class participation. Increases public scrutiny of specific issues through direct interrogation.
Deliberative writing: The task of reflecting on critical issues and translating student thoughts to the written page could be a valuable exercise for students. Students could write about the ways their opinion changed or remained the same, what they found most persuasive, and what decision should be made. This promotes individual, instead of a group, decision-making. Disadvantage: Writing is generally more time-intensive than oral processes. Writing does not usually facilitate oral delivery competencies, though could be used as a starting point for future oral exercises. Advantage: Rewards students who might not have excellent oral competencies but excel at the written word.
Meta-reflection: The reflective turn can be an appropriate conclusion to deliberative activities. Questions can be asked about process (standards of argument, clash of competing perspectives, style, raising of hostilities, whose voice in the classroom was not heard, whose perspective on the issue outside the classroom was not heard) and content (what information is needed to make a decision, what are the critical points of contention.
Disadvantage: Fails to provide “practical judgment.” Advantage: Encourages consideration of the process of deliberation and assists in improving future deliberation practices.