Discussion Resources

Students participating in the BioScann curriculum must collaborate to make data-based decisions. For some students, coming to consensus through discussion with their peers may be a novel or challenging experience. To help make the process easier, we’ve developed discussion norms and discussion roles that teachers can implement in their classroom.

Discussion Norms

Discussion norms serve as guidelines for students to have productive and respectful discussions. Establishing norms can be done together as a class or can be determined ahead of time and shared by the teacher. The discussions as part of the BioScann curriculum may differ slightly from group discussions students typically have because the goal is for a group to come to a consensus. Examples of discussion norms:

  • One person speaks at a time
  • Be an active participant (listen, ask questions, respond) 
  • Refer to evidence (quotes from your character, numbers/data, etc.)
  • Disagree with ideas, not people
  • Be open to learning and changing your mind

Remember, there are no right or wrong answers, just arguments that are well-supported with evidence and reasoning and those that are not.

Discussion Roles

Discussion roles serve to help every student participate in a group discussion and to help the conversation move forward to a consensus. During the discussion, teachers should circulate to make sure students understand and are adhering to their role. Example discussion roles:


Opens the discussion and keeps the discussion on track.

Questions to ask:

  • To open the discussion ask: “Can everyone share in one sentence what they are thinking about what we should do?”
  • If the discussion seems to be getting off track remind the group of the question and ask: “Are we still answering the question?”
  • Periodically ask the group, “Does anyone have any questions about what has been said so far?”


Makes sure everyone in the group has a chance to speak and no one is interrupted.

Questions to ask:

  • If someone hasn’t spoken yet or they are interrupted ask: “(Name of Person), what do you think?”
  • Periodically ask, “Does anyone disagree with something that has been said?”

Consensus Checker/Timekeeper

Keeps track of time and monitors the group’s progress toward consensus.

Questions to ask:

  • Every few minutes, after someone is done speaking, ask: “Have we reached a consensus?” and have each group member vote for their choice.
  • If the discussion stops, ask “Can someone summarize what has been said so far?”
  • After the notetaker types a response, ask “Does anyone think we should add to or change our response?”


Takes notes on the conversation and types up final responses in the Bioscann platform.

Questions to ask:

  • If there is confusion about what a person has said, ask: “Can you rephrase what you just said?”
  • Before taking notes or writing in BioScann, check with the group about what to write and ask “What should I write?” or share what you are thinking and ask “Here’s what I am thinking of writing, what do you all think?”


Challenges the group to think of other viewpoints.

Questions to ask:

  • “Why wouldn’t (eg. name of other drug option) be the best choice?”
  • “Can someone explain the pros and cons of (eg. name of other drug option)?”
  • “What might be the consequences if we choose (eg.another drug option)?”