(1) Do the readings well in advance and take careful notes on matters pertinent to the themes of the course. Prioritize primary sources, but do not neglect secondary sources.
(2) At least four days before the scheduled discussion, teams should meet in person. At this meeting...
(3) ...Decide which discussion model to follow (below), and draw up a tentative list of interpretive questions.
(4) Two days before your discussion, trade emails or texts to finalize questions.
(5) By 5:00 p.m. on the day before discussion, email the instruction team with your team's questions. Based on their feedback, be prepared to make revisions.
(6) Lead your discussion on the scheduled day, bearing in mind that not everything will go as planned. (It never does.)
Models for discussion
PANEL. Your team forms a panel and leads the entire class in a discussion for about 40 minutes.
PROS: Allows for spontaneity and discussion among panelists.
CONS: Can lead to "talking head" syndrome; might not garner full participation from the rest of the class.
SMALL GROUPS. Each member of your team leads small groups of students in a discussion lasting about 7 minutes. When time is called, the groups remain the same, but the discussion leaders rotate. When every leader has visited every group, the entire class reconvenes for some closing remarks.
PROS: Allows every student to be engaged and to contribute; allows for more coverage of material.
CONS: Time limits might mean either shallow discussions or good discussions getting interrupted.
OTHER MODELS are welcome. If your team has a different idea for leading the discussion, please consult with the instruction team beforehand.
Each team member should prepare two or three interpretive questions on an aspect of the material. The questions might focus on a passage that seems representative of the reading or on a provocative idea.
Another useful tactic is to decide what the team wants peers to understand and then, working backwards, to generate interpretive questions leading to that endpoint.
Interpretive questions typically focus on "why" or "how," rather than "what" or "who." Some examples:
NO: What does Stambaugh say on p. 27?
YES: On p. 27 Stambaugh says such-and-such. How does this statement reflect his argument overall?
NO: What is a temple?
YES: How does the idea of a temple precinct inform our understanding of Roman religion?
NO: What is Stambaugh's conclusion?
YES: How does Stambaugh's conclusion help us as we move forward?
The "yes" questions take content for granted and prompt peers to comment on a text's aims or methodology.
Another kind of interpretive question asks about something the discussion leader genuinely does not understand. Such a question circumvents the feeling that the leader is fishing for an answer, though it should be deployed judiciously.