“R.E.A.L. ensures I will hear every student’s voice, and, maybe more importantly, that every student will be heard by her classmates. That is simple but that engagement never gets old. R.E.A.L. also ties directly into analytical writing, which students appreciate, and I love. It just makes their so much writing better! I’ve talked with all of our teachers about using it next year.”Ms. Doris Moss, 8th & 11th Grade English, Atlanta Classical Academy
“R.E.A.L. helps us engage with each other and everyone gets a better understanding of the text when they look at it from different points of view. Personally, I have an issue with shutting down the ideas of others without considering them, but R.E.A.L. helps with the life skill of of realizing there are multiple correct answers, multiple ways to solve a problem.”10th Grader
“At the beginning of the year, you can tell your students that they are going to learn ‘discussion skills.’ To them, that is an abstract idea and can seem daunting. R.E.A.L makes the intangible tangible and gives students concrete methods to improve discussion and conversation skills. It has been wonderful to see their confidence and ability grow this year.”Francisco Simbana, 8th Grade English, The Westminster Schools
“I've never spoken up as much as I do this year. I'm a complete introvert, but R.E.A.L. makes it so I know there is space for my voice and places like In-REAL-Time notes make it easy to get a word in. I even facilitate now, which is crazy. It also helps other people understand that when I'm quiet I'm not zoned out. I'm listening actively and now that's something our whole class values.”11th Grade Student
“R.E.A.L. helped my students find their voices. In fact, R.E.A.L. has become such an integral part of our classroom that the students made it extremely clear that it HAD TO be a part of our online learning journey this year! We have had to make some adaptations - like experimenting with the perfect size for breakout rooms...we’ve settled on four - but because of R.E.A.L. the students have continued to develop their communication and observation skills, even when they aren’t together physically. I also think that it is a great tool for ensuring our student's wellbeing at this time of uncertainty.”Rebecca Gray, Year 6/7 Humanities, Arcadia School
“I think REAL discussions serve as a draft for analytical writing, especially in how we use quotes, and they are a great place to speak your ideas and see how your peers react to it; similar to a band testing out songs at a concert before they release the studio version. ”9th Grade Student
Do I have to use R.E.A.L. in my classroom after taking this course?
Of course not, though 92% of participants to date have done so within three months. Our goal in these workshops and courses is to offer you a framework that we hope and expect you will adapt to fit your personal style and school context.
Is R.E.A.L. designed for virtual classrooms too?
Yes! R.E.A.L. is a set of skills and routines that works well in both in-person and online learning environments. One of the reasons the teacher guide is so long this summer is because it includes screenshots of features you can use in Zoom and Google Meet / Hangouts / Classroom in order to optimize your online discussions.
How does R.E.A.L. relate to other discussion methods we already use at my school or in my department?
R.E.A.L. is a set of skills and routines that makes student-led discussion easier and deeper. For most teachers, it streamlines the logistical headaches of FishBowl one day, Harkness another, Socratic Seminar the next. For department chairs, R.E.A.L. can be thought of as a primer or year-long boot camp that builds skills students need to succeed in upper level, seminar-style courses.
Is R.E.A.L. a silver bullet that solves centuries of struggle with student-led discussion?
No, not at all! But it is a system that approaches discussion differently. Using a combination of lived classroom experience and research about conversation that extends beyond educational contexts, we have reverse-engineered a system that solves for common pain points and structures students for success. It doesn’t promise perfect discussions, but approaching Discussion as a Discipline does guarantee growth.
What do people love most about R.E.A.L.?
Students express relief at clear expectations, consistent routines, and a sense of purpose when it comes to discussion. Although students might not say they “love” their newfound growth mindsets, we count the statistic that after using R.E.A.L. 86% of students say that “discussion is something I can get better at if I work on it” (compared to 15% pre-R.E.A.L.) as a major victory! Teachers all report that R.E.A.L. improves student’s analytical writing and makes discussion itself more rigorous, equitable, and easier to assess. Many comment that it’s a lot less work than other methods, that they appreciate knowing that every student will be engaged and enjoy getting to know their students better in the process.
What's the most common negative feedback about R.E.A.L.?
Some students bristle at the level of structure (though most appreciate it over time, especially as they find themselves surprised by the ease and depth of the discussions). Some teachers feel it’s hard to implement or that the learning curve is too steep (which we have worked hard to address through solutions like an online, video-based orientation for students). Others wonder at the relevance of a system that relies on handwritten manuals in the age of screens (we would respectfully refer those skeptics to the research, perhaps beginning with Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014) or Morehead, Dunlosky, and Rawson (2019)).
My school doesn’t have the PD funding available I need to study R.E.A.L.® this summer, but I’m committed to helping students deepen engagement with content and classmates! What should I do?
We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has undercut funding at many great schools. That said, equity is a cornerstone of R.E.A.L.® and we will do whatever we can to bring your – and your students’ – voices to the table. If you or your team is interested in learning R.E.A.L.®Discussion this summer but unable to pay full price, please email Liza: firstname.lastname@example.org
Just let us know.
(And don't feel bad! We've got a growth mindset.)
It is our hope and expectation that you will find the opportunity to learn R.E.A.L. Discussion to be useful, exciting, and fun! If that is not your experience after engaging fully with the activities and resources provided, we will certainly offer a refund in exchange for thoughtful, honest feedback.