RITUALIZED SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION
Ask students to sit closely in random pairs. Tell them to decide who will be "the scribe," and who will be "the spokesperson." Remind them to stay on task because the order they will be called upon to report back in the public arena will not be revealed in advance. This ensures focus. The following question should be addressed.
1. What are some of the TOK-relevant ideas conveyed in these extracts?
2. In particular what is Stevens saying about the human encounter with "things exactly as they are"? Is this trivial or important for the knowing quest?
Let them discuss the guiding questions for four minutes. Stay disciplined with the time and give a one minute warning. Invite the first random spokesperson to report back. Allow the scribe to add something too. Challenge the pair on the spot with playful clarification questions; and invite comments and questions from the whole class group. Repeat with a few different spokespersons and see where it goes. Continue with whole class discussion. Conclude with a distillation of any emerging Knowledge Questions, for future discussion, long before the conversation naturally fizzles out.
Remind them about their Common Agreements if boundaries are crossed during the session. Congratulate them for respecting their set of consensual agreements if not.
Variations on this ritualized format--for structured small group conversation, reporting back, and moving towards focused whole class discussion--will be used throughout the TOK course. The time constraint, pressure reporting back in public at random, and counterintuitive partner and small group combinations that force students to work with others, not necessarily in their friend group, all combine to generate a creative tension and sharp focus in the room.