Interpretive Discussion

Interpretive Discussion Engaging Students in Text-Based Conversations

Sophie Haroutunian-Gordon, Foreword by Sharon Feiman-Nemser
paper, 240 Pages
Pub. Date: March 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-644-9
Price: $29.00

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In the era of the Common Core, teachers in all subject areas and grade levels are seeking ways to help students engage with and reflect on the meaning of texts. In Interpretive Discussion, Sophie Haroutunian-Gordon guides teachers through a carefully refined process for preparing, leading, and reflecting on these powerful conversations and discusses the skills and habits of mind that underlie this approach.


Professor Haroutunian-Gordon tackles the challenge of helping teachers engage in interpretive text-based discussions, which unfold spontaneously, but require planning, structure, and skillful questioning. This is hard, important work that allows students in diverse settings to develop desired critical thinking skills and habits of mind.
— Karen Zumwalt, Evenden Professor Emerita of Education, Teachers College, Columbia University

In interpretive discussion, teachers learn to gradually transfer responsibility for collaboration to students as young people discover their own questions about a text and learn to support their interpretations with evidence. This landmark volume will be indispensable for teachers of all subjects.
— Sara Fliehman, English teacher, Chicago Public Schools

Timely and compelling, Interpretive Discussion is a gift to American education, affirming the best of what teaching and learning can be.
— Daniel B. Frank, principal, Francis W. Parker School, Chicago

This book will be a great help to teachers trying to meet Common Core Standards on collaborative work and critical thinking. It reminds us that teachers do more than instruct: they serve as models and guides for listening, dialogue, reflection, and interpretation.
— Nel Noddings, Lee L. Jacks Professor of Education Emerita, Stanford University, and author of Education and Democracy in the 21st Century

Interpretive Discussion is designed for teachers of all subjects, ages and levels. Using specific case studies, Haroutunian-Gordon guides teachers in how to choose suitable texts, prepare good questions and lead effective discussions. Her book also shows how students’ skills grow through interpretive discussions. — Marilyn Sherman, Northwestern School of Education and Social Policy

Interpretive Discussion serves as a tool to help teachers encourage critical thinking, analytic and argumentative skills, and interpretative skills—all of which are needed to meet the rigorous requirements of the Common Core Standards, as well as prepare students for college and active citizenship in democratic society. Haroutunian-Gordon’s book provides a framework for professional development, learning opportunities for students, and exciting discoveries for anyone engaged in interpretive discussion practices. — Leilya Pitre, Teachers College Record

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About the Author

Sophie Haroutunian-Gordon has served as professor and director of the Master of Science in Education Program (MSEd) at Northwestern University for twenty-two years; she retired as director in August 2013. At the start of her professional career, she taught sixth grade for five years, then earned a PhD at the University of Chicago, where she joined the faculty. In 1991, she went to Northwestern. An educational philosopher by training, she is a past president of the Philosophy of Education Society (2003). She conducts research on topics related to the philosophy of education, including interpretive discussion, that is, discussion about the meaning of texts. She has written three books on the topic, the first of which, Turning the Soul: Teaching Through Conversation in the High School, received an American Educational Studies Association Critics Choice Award in 1994. Her Learning to Teach Through Discussion: The Art of Turning the Soul, a study of two MSEd students who were learning to lead discussions, was published in 2009. Haroutunian-Gordon is coeditor of special issues of Teachers College Record and Educational Theory on the topic of listening—an interest that has grown out of her research.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Sharon Feiman-Nemser

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