Discussion Guideline

Our general discussion format will be for the leader to give a 10 to 15 minute presentation summarizing the content of the relevant papers - most likely by focusing on one paper and then briefly summarizing the remaining papers. When appropriate, it would be helpful to compare and contrast the various articles. The leader will then facilitate a discussion for about 20 to 30 minutes at which point all students are expected to participate. The following is a description of our motivation behind discussion sessions and some tips for leading your discussion.

There are several motivations for our in-class discussions. First, I would like you to be exposed to the state-of-the-art in stream restoration, including the most recent developments in practice as well as the latest research studies. Second, I would like you to get a feel for the various philosophies/perspectives that exist on our selected topics. Finally, I hope that some of the open questions that will arise in our discussions will help spark ideas that spillover into your research and careers.

With these goals in mind, here are some tips on how to lead a successful discussion:
  • Do not assume that your audience has read the papers. I encourage everyone to at least skim all of the papers before the class meets, but there are too many papers for everyone to have read all of them in detail. Hence your talk must be self-contained: you must provide whatever background is necessary for your discussion.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. Create slides or whatever visual aids you need to communicate your ideas quickly and clearly. You probably do not have time for more than 5-10 slides. You may want to create backup slides related to questions that you might ask, but that is optional.
  • Do not attempt to present the full content of the papers. There simply is not enough time. Distill the papers down to their key ideas and results.
  • Be careful about the time. Twenty minutes is a very short period of time, especially since we want a large chunk of that time to be devoted to discussion. I would suggest that you time your presentation to make sure that you can fit it within a reasonably short period of time. Make sure that you leave at least 20 to 30 minutes for discussion. If you can organize your entire session as an interactive discussion, that is even better.
  • Don't just accept all of the statements in these papers at face value. Do you agree with the authors? Do their results really support their conclusions, or are there other interpretations or opposing views? In particular, is there a good reason to believe that the conclusions will still hold for applications other than the ones in the given study?
  • Your mission is to provoke a thoughtful discussion about your topic. Come prepared with a list of thought-provoking questions to pose to the audience.
  • At some point in your discussion (perhaps near the end), you should present what you consider to be interesting open research questions related to your topic. These are not necessarily just suggestions for class projects (the scope can be much larger than that), although they might help people think about interesting problems to address.
  • All of the discussion leaders should actively participate in leading the discussion.