Fishbowl Discussions for Political Dialogue

Working with the Choices Program at Brown University, Zupin and a team of social studies teachers in Indiana found that "fishbowls" are a particularly effective strategy for keeping the peace during a controversial political discussion. A group of five to seven students sit in an inner circle (the fishbowl) deliberating an essential question while the rest of the class observes in a wider circle around them. Then the students switch positions. The format encourages students to "listen to hear and not [to] respond," Zupin says, and rewards them for sharing multiple viewpoints.

"Even when you're in a homogeneous political community, there's more ideological diversity than one would expect," Hess notes. "Kids are undecided on many issues."

Fishbowl discussions rarely devolve into verbal spars because students know that they are being graded for their participation. Zupin uses a Deliberative Dialogue Rubric developed by Indiana University to assess students in four areas:


  • "Ability to support comments" (referencing resources discussed in class to validate statements)
  • "Questioning skills" (asking other students thoughtful questions)
  • "Understanding of [the] topic" (showing higher-order thinking and multiple perspectives)
  • "Mindfulness" (being respectful of others)


By the time a fishbowl is over, students have immediate feedback about how they performed in each of these areas.


Folksonomies: politics education discussion dialogue

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/technology and computing/hardware/computer networking/router (0.577358)
/science/mathematics (0.474092)

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Question (0.969104): dbpedia | freebase
Thought (0.849778): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Critical thinking (0.686608): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Debate (0.617824): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
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 The Elephant (and Donkey) in the Room
Periodicals>Newsletter Article:  McKibben, Sarah (October 2015 ), The Elephant (and Donkey) in the Room, ASCD, October 2015 | Volume 57 | Number 10 , Retrieved on 2015-11-24
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: politics education discussion