Two weeks ago I discussed how high school English teachers who withhold the correct answer to a reading comprehension question can make their students more curious about that answer. Properly channeled, that curiosity can energize students to revisit the text with the patience required to figure out the right answer—or at least to figure out the source of a misconception.
We’ve seen that high school students do particularly good work in this rereading mode when they are paired with someone with a different answer and they have to come to a consensus about the right answer. When students have to agree on an answer, they can’t give up until they have gained some understanding from each other.
Recently, I observed a Riveting Results class in which students were supposed to be working in pairs to come to consensus. The teacher walked over to two boys who seemed to have finished and asked them why they had closed their laptops. One student said, “We’re good. We agree to disagree.”
Agreeing to disagree sounds good. But, it is often a way of avoiding the hard work required to really understand another person’s view.
The teacher reminded them that they had to come to a consensus. He asked each student to explain their reasoning again—and leaned over to listen while each student explained. One student spotted a phrase in the reading that he had missed. After a few minutes of discussing the phrase, the student agreed that his initial answer was incorrect. He changed his answer to his partner’s and wrote an explanation about why.