Interpretive discussion

An interpretive discussion is a discussion in which participants explore and/or resolve interpretations often pertaining to texts of any medium containing significant ambiguity in meaning.


Interpretive discussions are an effective pedagogical method throughout educational systems in classes of nearly every subject and grade.[1][2] A major goal of pedagogical interpretive discussions is for students to delve deeply into texts in order to better understand their meanings. Pedagogical interpretive discussions typically culminate with syntheses of arguments presented, engaging students in critical thinking as they infer meaning from texts, formulate personal opinions, respectfully argue for their own interpretations and synthesize arguments. Over the course of discussions, participants benefit from cognitive exercise as well as communication and social relationship skill-building.[2] Cognitive skills developed include inquiry,[3][4] critical thinking, reflective thinking,[5][6] metacognition,[7] reading comprehension, text inferencing, pragmatic competence and metalinguistic awareness.

In the United States, the Common Core State Standards Initiative English Language Arts Standards[8] "require that all students learn to make interpretations of texts. The standards insist that students be able to comprehend what is stated explicitly in a text, infer what follows logically from explicit statement, and make arguments based upon textual evidence to support those inferences — i.e., interpret a text for themselves. In addition, students are expected to be able to engage in conversation about the meaning of texts with others whose perspectives and backgrounds may differ from their own. The exchanges are to be 'collaborative', meaning that students will work together to develop ideas — 'building on one another's' — and state their views clearly."[9]

Leading interpretive discussions

Successful leaders of interpretive discussions should be involved with the ideas and opinions that their students express. This involves both being familiar with the texts and developing lists of questions to use as possible jumping points for discussions as well as getting participants involved throughout the processes of discussions. Successful leaders also come to discussions with open minds as to the outcomes or endpoints of discussions. Leaders must listen to discussants, acting as facilitators and not as authorities.[2]

Before discussions, leaders should carefully select readings and communicate expectations to participants. This ensures that participants will have adequate time to prepare and to understand the expectations for discussions such as expected attendance at discussions, frequency of participation and proper ways to disagree respectfully with other participants.[10]:38–39

In some discussion models, participants are expected to come to discussions prepared with their own lists of questions about texts, to encourage independent thinking. Interpretive discussions can arise or flow from participants' questions; discussants can be genuinely motivated to participate as well as to engage with texts so as to better understand the meanings of texts. That is, no questions need be thrust upon groups for discussions, but rather interested discussants can participate actively to better understand the meanings of texts.[1] In other discussion models (often those with more limited time), leaders guide participants through questions to ensure that important topics are covered over the course of discussions.[10]:40

In leading discussions, leaders should encourage every member of the discussion to participate. Some consider that this includes calling on participants who are habitually quiet, even when they do not volunteer, to try to engage them in discussions and to encourage them to share their opinions and interpretations.[10]:43 As leaders, it is also important to remember that "one of the most important things an instructor can do to promote student participation in discussion is to maintain a respectful posture toward students and their contributions."[10]:45 By treating participants and their questions and interpretations respectfully, leaders will encourage participants to continue to participate and to take risks.

Leaders of discussions should also encourage participants to engage more deeply with texts by asking probing follow-up questions, asking for specific passages in texts as support and by summarizing what participants have said and asking if participants want to clarify. In this way, leaders of discussions act as facilitators. Finally, discussion leaders are responsible for providing conclusions or wrap ups to discussions, asking for final questions or clarifications and providing contexts for discussions.

Discussion questions

Interpretive questions may have one or many valid answers. Participants in interpretive discussions are asked to interpret various aspects of texts or to hypothesize about intended interpretations using text-based evidence. Other types of discussion questions include fact-based and evaluative questions. Fact-based questions tend to have one valid answer and can involve recall of texts or specific passages. Evaluative questions ask discussion participants to form responses based on experiences, opinions, judgments, knowledge and/or values rather than texts.

Basic or focus questions are interpretive questions which comprehensively address an aspect of interpreting a selection. Resolving basic or focus questions typically requires investigation and examination of multiple passages within a selection. Cluster questions, which need not be interpretive questions, are optionally prepared by discussion leaders and are often organized to help to resolve the answers to basic or focus questions. Cluster questions may additionally serve as catalysts for further discussions.


Main article: Semantics


Main article: Denotation


Main article: Connotation


Main article: Extension (semantics)


Main article: Ambiguity


Main article: Polysemy

Cognitive semantics

Main article: Cognitive semantics


Main article: Perception
Multistable perception


Main article: Pragmatics



Main article: Priming (psychology)


Main article: Culture

Historical Pragmatics

Main article: Historical pragmatics

Communication Studies

Main article: Communication studies

Visual Communication

Main article: Visual communication


Main article: Linguistics

Literal and Figurative Language

Text Linguistics

Main article: Text linguistics

Cognitive Linguistics

Main article: Cognitive linguistics

Historical Linguistics


Main article: Semiotics



Methods of Semiotics

Commutation Test

Paradigmatic Analysis

Main article: Paradigmatic analysis

Syntagmatic Analysis

Main article: Syntagmatic analysis

Film Semiotics

Main article: Film semiotics

Cognitive Semiotics

Main article: Cognitive semiotics


Main article: Semiosis


Main article: Hermeneutics


Main article: Subtext


Main article: Allusion


Main article: Recontextualisation


Main article: Intertextuality


Main article: Interdiscourse

Hermeneutic Circle

Main article: Hermeneutic circle


Main article: Exegesis


Main article: Eisegesis


Main article: Literature

Literary Theory

Main article: Literary theory

Reader-response Criticism

Literary Criticism

Main article: Literary criticism



Main article: Drama


Main articles: Comedy and Theories of humor


Main article: Philology


Main article: Poetry

Theory of Poetry

Main article: Poetics

History of Poetry

Main article: History of poetry


Main articles: Art and Aesthetic interpretation

Theory of Art

Main article: Theory of art

Art Criticism

Main article: Art criticism

Art History

Main article: Art history


Main article: Theatre

Theory of Theatre

Theatre Criticism

Main article: Theatre criticism

History of Theatre

Main article: History of theatre

Improvisational Theatre


Main article: Film

Film Theory

Main article: Film theory

Film Criticism

Main article: Film criticism

History of Film

Main article: History of film


Main article: Narrative

Narrative Theory

Main article: Narratology


Main articles: History and Historiography


Main article: Philosophy

Philosophy of Language

Context Principle

Main article: Context principle


Aesthetic Emotions

Main article: Aesthetic emotions


Main article: Aesthetics

Philosophy of Film

Main article: Philosophy of film



Main article: Argumentation theory





Main article: Anthropology

Cognitive Anthropology


Main article: Psychology


Main article: Psycholinguistics

Cognitive Philology

Main article: Cognitive philology

Cognitive Poetics

Main article: Cognitive poetics

Psychology of Art

Main article: Psychology of art

Gestalt Psychology

Main article: Gestalt psychology

Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

Cognitive Science

Main article: Cognitive science


Main article: Analogy


Main article: Concept


Main article: Abstraction

Conceptual Metaphor

Main article: Conceptual metaphor

Conceptual Blending

Main article: Conceptual blending

Artificial Intelligence

Knowledge Representation

Cognitive Architectures

Computational Linguistics

Speech Recognition

Main article: Speech recognition

Natural Language Understanding

Semantic Interpretation

Natural Language Generation

Speech Synthesis

Main article: Speech synthesis

Computational Creativity

Computational Semiotics

Multi-agent Systems

Main article: Multi-agent system


Main article: Sociology


Main article: Sociolinguistics

Social Semiotics

Main article: Social semiotics

Political Science

Main article: Political science


  1. 1 2 Haroutunian-Gordan, Sophie (1998). "A Study of Reflective Thinking: Patterns in Interpretive Discussion". Education Theory. 48 (1): 33–58. doi:10.1111/j.1741-5446.1998.00033.x.
  2. 1 2 3 Haroutunian-Gordon, Sophie (1991). Turning the Soul: Teaching Through Conversation in the High School. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226316765.
  3. Dewey, John (1938). Logic: The Theory of Inquiry. Lexington, Massachusetts: D. C. Heath and Company.
  4. Colapietro, Vincent (2005). "Cultivating the Arts of Inquiry, Interpretation and Criticism: A Peircean Approach to our Educational Practices". Studies in Philosophy and Education. 24 (3-4): 337–366. doi:10.1007/s11217-005-3856-x.
  5. Dewey, John (1910). How We Think. Lexington, Massachusetts: D. C. Heath and Company.
  6. Rodgers, Carol (2002). "Defining Reflection: Another Look at John Dewey and Reflective Thinking". The Teachers College Record. 104 (4): 842–866. doi:10.1111/1467-9620.00181.
  7. Mokhtari, Kouider; Reichard, Carla A. (2002). "Assessing Students' Metacognitive Awareness of Reading Strategies". Journal of Educational Psychology. 94 (2): 249–259. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.94.2.249.
  8. "Common Core State Standards Initiative English Language Arts Standards". Common Core State Standards Initiative. Common Core State Standards Initiative.
  9. Haroutunian-Gordan, Sophie (2014-04-15). "Interpretive Discussion: A Route Into Textual Interpretation". Education Week Teacher.
  10. 1 2 3 4 Salemi, Michael K.; Hansen, W. Lee (2005). Discussing Economics: A Classroom Guide to Preparing Discussion Questions and Leading Discussion. Edward Elgar Publishing. ISBN 9781781958476.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 8/24/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.