Summary Of My SAC Forum



Forum Summary by Candiss Brown 2017-04-09 to 2017-04-16

Forum Topic – Structured Academic Controversy [SAC]

Summary of topic – SAC is a process where small groups of students have discussions about an assigned topic, through which they increase their understanding of said topic. They then are guided to take on multiple perspectives and eventually must gain consensus.

Thread                                   Replies                                               Participants

Question 1                            9                                                          8

Question 2                            7                                                          6

Totals                                     16                                                       12


Question #1 ~ Has anyone used this SET in their class and how did it go?

Summary of replies:

~ Donna replied that she had not used this SET but that it looks interesting.

~ Lisa replied that she had not but she wondered if it could be similar to a debate-style discussion for example “four corners”. Lisa then said she had read some postings on my blog and that the SAC was similar to debate-style lesson, she likes the deliberation steps. Lisa also mentioned that she did not feel it would work for her small classes with her topics but wonders how it works for anyone else.

~ Adam replied that he saw a great discussion forum on debates and posted a link for his blog where he wrote about debate style. [Adam’s blog]

~ Meghan replied that SAC looks like classic debating model. Meghan feels it would benefit all classrooms, that controversy is all around us and we should encourage students to challenge knowledge, beliefs and evidence around the controversy, a valuable engagement technique. Meghan also added an example of a SAC lesson plan. Academic Controversy.pdf

~ Teresa replied that she also had not used SAC, then thanked Meghan for the lesson plan resource. Teresa went on to say that she feels the strategy would be great for developing students critical thinking skills as well as communication skills as the students must discuss both sides of the controversy, essentially suspending previous assumptions and entertain different perspectives.

~ I replied with a link on “How to teach Structured Academic”

~ Doug replied that SAC is a great activity as it ensures that students must look at topics from a perspective they may not hold…. hence deeper learning.

~ Lisa replied that she tries to encourage her students to look at things from other perspectives, her students are dealing with hearing loss and are very amerced in their own point of view but Lisa thought perhaps they could learn from thinking from the average person’s perspective. Lisa then thought that this could then be built into a team-building exercise about more effective/supportive communication.

~ Willa replied that she had not used SAC but she remembers it from elementary school. Lisa also found many articles on SAC technique which had many complicated steps but she found a YouTube video that clearly describes SAC.

[YouTube video]

Question #2 ~ How adaptable do you feel this technique is across fields?

Summary of replies:

~ Willa replied that she feels that in her field of nursing, which is a science, things are not always black and white. Willa still felt there would be many opportunities to use SAC and that empowering and encouraging students to think critically is a good thing.

~ Ashley replied that she has not used SAC in her classroom but she has participated in one. Ashley felt the SAC was a great exercise that encouraged students to step outside their own beliefs and look at where someone else is coming from. Ashley would use SAC in her classroom.

~ John replied was not sure how SAC would work for subjects like Math, Physics, or Electrical theory.

~ Laurie replied that she has not used SAC but she has used the “5 Why Method” and she then shared two stories on that technique. Here is the link to how to use this technique that Laurie provided.

~ Allison replied that she has used SAC and that is a great co-operative learning experience. Allison encourages students to discuss using the focused conversation model, and the one caveat she has is that the classroom is a safe place to learn and that safety is already built into her classroom community.

~ Laurie replied that she is thankful for Allison’s version of SAC and that she completely agrees with her comment about a safe community to learn.

~ Rupananda replied that he has not used SAC but that this SET requires students to have in depth knowledge of the relevant topic and it will help with critical thinking skills.


Overall I found that not many of the respondents had used this SET but that most felt that it could be very effective for most subjects. I found in my research of this SET that it would be a valuable tool for me in my field and I do plan on using some of the resources that the respondents brought forward to ensure I can use this SET properly for me instruction.




Questioning Techniques

I use questions to fill in time and keep my students on thier “toes”. I use post it tabs to label items through-out my lecture that I can come back to, at the end, to ask questions about. I find this helps to complete my lecture in a way that gives the students a way of knowing what I feel is most important in the lecture and also a way for me to check their comprehension. Here is an article that has some great tips for questioning techniques.


Positive Learning Environments!

I feel that humour is one of the best ways to create a positive learning environment for adults and children. In my experience over the last three years of teaching I have used humour to lighten the intensity of the classroom. I have found that it lets my students know that I am a person just like them and that I want the classroom to be a relaxed and comfortable place to be. This article has some great tips to bring humour into your classroom. :]



How to Teach Structured Academic Controversy

  • June 26, 2013
  • by Peter Pappas
  • deliberation

    I was recently introduced to Deliberating in a Democracy in the Americas (DDA), a valuable online resource for teachers interested in helping their students develop skills in discussing controversial topics. It uses the Structured Academic Controversy (SAC) model, developed by David and Roger Johnson of the University of Minnesota to provide structure and focus to classroom discussions. Not all issues can be easily debated as pro / con positions. SAC provides students with a framework for addressing complex issues in a productive manner that builds their skills in reading, analyzing, listening, and discussion. It shifts the goal from “winning” the argument to active listening to opposing viewpoints and distilling areas of agreement. It’s a prime skill for civic participation and in alignment with Common Core close reading skills


    The DDA site has all the material teachers will need to support discussion in 15 interesting deliberation questions including:

    • Should our democracy allow schools to punish students for off-campus cyberbullying?
    • In our democracy, should violent juvenile offenders be punished as adults?
    • Should all citizens in our democracy participate in one year of mandatory national service?
    • Should our democracy permit the cultivation of genetically modified foods?

    The site includes well-documented background readings in English and Spanish with audio versions of each. And it provides links to additional online resources and a glossary of important terms for each question. It also includes a poll on the website where students can vote and see how other students have voted.

    Link to a pdf that demonstrates how SAC aligns with Common Core Standards.
    How to teach Structured Academic Controversy in the history classroom.

    DDA details the SAC process as follows:

    1. Introduction. Teachers review the meaning of deliberation, the reasons for deliberating, and the rules for deliberation.
    2. Careful Reading of the Text. Students read the text individually, in small groups of 4 or as a whole class in order to reach a common understanding of the reading. If students do not understand the reading, the deliberation will not be successful. As a whole class or in their small groups, students agree on at least three interesting facts and/or ideas.
    3. Clarification. After checking for understanding of the terms and content, the teacher makes sure students understand the deliberation question.
    4. Presentation of Positions. Students work in small groups of 4 divided into pairs (A & B). Each pair is assigned a position. The position of the A’s is to find at least two compelling reasons to say YES to the deliberation question. The position of the B’s is to find at least two compelling reasons to say NO to the deliberation question. A’s teach B’s at least two reasons to say YES to the deliberation question. B’s teach A’s at least two reasons to say NO to the deliberation question. (Handout #2)
    5. Reversal of Positions. The pairs reverse positions. The B pair now adopts the position to say YES to the deliberation question; the A pair adopts the position to say NO to the deliberation question. The A’s & B’s should select the best reason they heard from the other pair and add at least one additional compelling reason from the reading to support their new position.
    6. Free Discussion. Students drop their assigned roles and deliberate the question in their small groups. Each student reaches a personal decision based on evidence and logic.
    7. Whole Class Debrief. The teacher leads the whole class in a discussion to gain a deeper understanding of the question, democracy, and deliberation. What were the most compelling reasons for each side? What were the areas of agreement? What questions do you still have? Where can you get more information? What is your position? (Poll the class on the deliberation question.) In what ways, if any, did your position change? Is there an alternative policy that might address the problem more effectively? What, if anything, might you or your class do to address this problem?
    8. Student Reflection. Students complete the reflection form either at the end of class or for homework.