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Using Pro and Con Grid activity to facilitate critical thinking in Active Learning Classrooms
Time and Effort
|Instructor Prep Time||Low|
|Student Activity Time||Low|
|Instructor Response Time||Medium|
|Complexity of Activity||Medium|
Pro and Con Grid has students follow a decision-making process by reviewing an issue, creating a list of pro and con arguments, and making a decision based on the weight and analysis of those points. A review of students’ lists reveals the depth and breadth of their analyses, capacity for objectivity, and strength of their decision-making skills.|
Use it when you want...
- To help students to move beyond their first reaction to a topic, search for at least two sides to the issues in question, weigh the value of competing claims, think critically about the construction of arguments they encounter in the real world or get an overview of their analysis of an issue of mutual concern.
What students will need
- Laptop, tablet, or mobile phone
- Classroom with campus wireless connection
The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a Pro and Con Grid learning activity within an Active Learning Classroom.
- Write a prompt that will elicit thoughtful pro and con arguments on a decision, judgment, dilemma, or issue.
- Select the desired approach and create a Google Doc template with the example on top and a pro and con column below to facilitate the activity.
- Determine when you will have students engage in this activity (beginning, middle, end, or outside of class).
- Present an example of a pro and con grid.
- At each table, have them assign a scribe to copy the Google Docs template and capture the group's work. Make sure all students' names are at the top of the document and that the instructor is given access.
- Let groups know how many items you expect them to list.
- Determine whether students should use words, phrases, or sentences in their list of pro and con arguments.
- Give students five to ten minutes to complete the activity.
- Upon completion of the activity, call on one or two tables to present their findings. Ask the rest of the class if they had items that were not represented by the reporting groups.
- Review grids from shared Google Docs. List the points students provided in each category and do a frequency count. Which arguments do students mention most often? Compare students’ lists with yours. How balanced are the two sides?
- Provide feedback/grade based on the quality of the grids.
- Discuss the results of the activity at the next class meeting.
Accessibility and Room Considerations
An Issues in Bioethics Professor has students read several recent articles on the current debate about patenting human genetic material. He wants students to reflect on this issue and writes a prompt "From your viewpoint as consumers, what are the principal pros and cons of allowing the patenting of genes?" At the beginning of class, he presents each group with the question at the top and two columns (PROS and CONS). He asks each group to come up with six entries for each column. He gives them ten minutes to complete the activity. He has each group report their list and creates a master list from all groups' results (Modified from Angelo 169).
An Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering is teaching a seminar in Bridge and Highway Design. Students have just studied two proposed designs for a suspension bridge before class. She wants to know how well students are able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each proposal. She also wants to expose the internal decision-making processes they use to make a recommendation. At the start of class, she shares a Google Docs template and asks each table to identify three to five strengths and weaknesses of each proposal. Students have 5-10 minutes to complete the task. She calls on a few tables to share their results without comment. The class reviews the list, which reveals some differences of opinions. Students are given another 10 minutes to work in pairs to review the lists and make a recommendation along with a rationale for their decision (Modified from Angelo 169).
Angelo, Thomas A., and K. Patricia Cross. Classroom Assessment Techniques: a Handbook for College Teachers. Jossey-Bass, 1993. pp. 168-171.