Street Law’s Deliberation Methodology

Deliberations allow teachers to help students cooperatively discuss contested political issues by carefully considering multiple perspectives and searching for consensus. This highly-structured model for conversation is based on Roger T. Johnson and David W. Johnson's Structured Academic Controversy discussion model.

Though Street Law’s Deliberation materials have been created with in-person classroom discussion in mind, there are a variety of ways in which the materials may be useful in at-home learning settings.

Overview of Deliberation Materials

For at-home learning, two sets of resources will be useful:

Deliberation Topic Packs – Each pack includes a lesson guide, a reading about a contested issue, a glossary, a list of quotes related to the topic, a visual related to the topic, and suggested additional resources related to the topic. Topics include:

Deliberation Handout B – Ask students to use the Handout B graphic organizer to identify compelling arguments on either side of the Deliberation topic.

Strategies for Using Street Law’s Deliberation Materials for At-Home Learning

Pre-read the Deliberation reading and determine whether (and how much) additional background knowledge students will need prior to reading the topic text on their own. Consult the “Lesson Guide” and the “Suggested Resources” to provide students with additional background knowledge reading, videos, and/or activities.

Provide students with the Deliberation topic reading, glossary, and Handout B graphic organizer. Ask students to complete the reading and fill out the most compelling arguments for either side on Handout B. To support your students in their reading, consider these strategies:

  • Develop comprehension check-in questions to assess students’ understanding (and misunderstandings) of the reading. Return to misunderstandings and clarify.
  • Read the text aloud. Here are some tech strategies to help students access a read-aloud feature on Adobe or on Chrome.
  • Chunk the text into smaller bites and move slowly. For example, on Day 1, you could ask students to read just the “Background” information in the text. Then, check in with students about the comprehension of that chunk of the text.

Traditionally, Street Law’s Deliberation materials are used to help students engage in deliberative discussion about contested issues. Doing this at-home can be challenging. Here are some strategies for at-home discussion:

  • Synchronous online at-home learning. Ask students to share the most compelling reasons for either side of the topic that they selected to add to Handout B. After several students have shared for either side, ask students to identify where the two sides of the topic might find common ground. For example, do students think that the two sides might agree that there is a problem? What might either side say about the problem? Do students think that the two sides might agree on a solution?
  • Asynchronous online at-home learning. Either through online discussion boards and/or through email “pen pals” ask students to share the information listed just above.
  • Not online at all at-home learning. Ask students to share their learning with a family member or over the phone with a friend. In their conversation, students should share arguments for either side of the topic, plus their thoughts about where the sides might find common ground.

Many teachers use Street Law’s Deliberations as a jumping off point for writing and research. Here are some strategies for at-home writing and/or research assignments (all of these suggestions involve reading the Deliberation reading first):

  • Several extension ideas are listed in the “Lesson Guide” of each Deliberation topic pack. Also consider extending student analysis of the topic by using the “Suggested Resources” that accompany each topic pack.
  • Ask students to examine the visual resource and answer the accompanying questions. Then, ask students to find 2-3 additional visuals that they might select to supplement this topic.
  • Have students read through the quotes resource and identify whether the quote best belongs on the YES side of the argument, the NO side of the argument, somewhere in between, or in the background information. Ask students to give their reasoning for each.
  • Provide students with an argument writing format and ask students to write their own opinion about the topic using evidence from the Deliberation reading, along with additional research, if desired.
  • Ask students to consider other contested issue topics that are of interest to them. Using the Deliberation reading format, ask students to research and write a Deliberation reading of their own about a contested issue.