Spider Web Discussion™

The Best Class You Never Taught

What is Spider Web Discussion?
If you want students that:

- Think critically
- Work collaboratively
- Behave ethically
- Ask and answer high-level questions
- Support their ideas
- Evaluate and assess their own work

Then you want to try Spider Web Discussion. It asks students to lead and assess and teachers to observe and coach.

What does the name mean?
The name is an acronym, describing the specific aspects of the discussion and its process:

S ynergetic – a collaborative, group effort with a single group grade
p rocess – a process that must be practiced and honed
i ndependent – students work independently; teacher observes and gives feedback
d eveloped – a developed, sustained discussion that aims to “get somewhere”
xploration – an exploration of ideas, texts, or questions through discussion
with a
r ubric – a clear, specific rubric against which the students can self-assess

Web - A word that describes two aspects of the method:
1. The physical map of the discussion (sample map)
2. A metaphor for the process -- like a web, all participants must pull their own weight equally, or the web cannot be strong.

What does it look like?
Like this ninth-grade English classroom in Dobbs Ferry, New York: http://www.authenticeducation.org/alexis/

What technology does it require?
Pen and paper

How was it developed and by whom?
Alexis Wiggins, a high-school English teacher and consultant, developed it based on her work in a Harkness school. Spider Web Discussion is more than Harkness method or Socratic seminar, though. Through specific processes Alexis has devised, such as modeling, coding, group grading, and feedback sessions, Spider Web Discussion trains students to work together collaboratively in their problem-solving and to self-assess that process. The result is deep, high-level inquiry led and assessed by the students themselves, whether they are in second grade or high-school Geometry. In short, Spider Web Discussion aims to create authentic collaborators, communicators, and self-evaluators out of all students.

Where can I get training?
Alexis Wiggins teaches classes and workshops on Spider Web Discussion in the U.S., Asia, and Europe and works with individual schools and educators on implementing it in the classroom.

How can I contact Alexis or inquire about bookings?
Just send an email to: spiderwebdiscussion [at] ceelcenter [dot] org.

Where can I read more about Spider Web Discussion?
Check out Alexis’s wiki, loaded with documents, articles, and a FAQs page: http://alexiswiggins.pbworks.com/

You can also read more of Alexis's educational musings on her blog and follow her on Twitter at the handle alexiswiggins.