Go Back

Introducing the RoundTable: Raising the Bar in Class Discussions.

Why write this blog post?

Discussions are an integral part of post-secondary education, the workplace, and life in general! Teachers know the importance of teaching students how to have meaningful discussions. They help develop critical thinking, collaboration and communication skills. It is imperative that we encourage young people to have open discussions on a regular basis, but discussions can be a real challenge. Here are some common frustrations that we’ve identified over the past few years at Parlay:

1. Students aren’t always prepared for the conversation. Without a base of understanding, discussions can fall flat.

2. Discussions can be unbalanced; 15% of students often dominate more than 50% of the conversation.

3. It’s hard to hold students accountable when there is no reliable way to measure and evaluate their contributions.

In this blog post I will discuss how teachers of all kinds can use Parlay to address the first of these problems: how to prepare for meaningful discussions.
My goal is to outline a strategy that:

1. Ensures that all students are prepared for class discussions.

2. Supercharges the quality of student contributions.


How does The Ideal Parlay Discussion work?

A little background information before we get started:
Parlay has developed two unique class discussion modules called RoundTables™. There are Online RoundTables and Live RoundTables. These two tools were developed to complement each other (as we will see), but are by no means co-dependent. They are often used independently to engage students in a variety of activities. Some of these include: reflections, journals, class presentations, and peer feedback exercises.
The process (outlined below) mirrors the University Seminar / Tutorial methodology. Your students will encounter this process on a regular basis at university.
In the “Ideal Parlay Discussion”, teachers leverage the power of both RoundTable modules. There are 4 steps that students go through over the course of 1 week. 

1. Students submit an independent response to the discussion prompt.

2. Students give each other constructive feedback based on their initial responses.

3. Students come together in the classroom and engage in a face-to-face discussion.

4. Finally, students review and reflect on their engagement summaries and any teacher feedback.

Detailed Breakdown: 

Step 1 – Prepare and Respond (Outside of class time)

Student Activities:

  1. Read material, watch videos etc
  2. Student prepares independent response to prompt


  1. Understand main concepts and ideas
  2. Prepare an authentic contribution to the discussion

Skills worked on:

  1. Time Management
  2. Reading and Writing
  3. Idea formulation

Tools Used:

  1. Online RoundTable

Step 2 – Explore New Ideas (Outside or inside class)

Student Activities:

  1. Read peers’ responses
  2. Assign Parlay Points for demonstrating key skills
  3. Provide meaningful written feedback
  4. Engage in online discussion


  1. Consider new perspectives
  2. Build on each others’ ideas
  3. Evaluate quality of arguments and ideas

Skills worked on:

  1. Critical reading
  2. Giving (and receiving) constructive feedback


Tools Used:

  1. Online RoundTable

Step 3 – Live Discussion (In Class)

Student Activities:

  1. Engage in face-to-face conversation*
  2. Assign points for demonstrating key skills (optional).
  3. Document main ideas and provide feedback (optional).

*Think: Harkness Tables, Socratic Circles, Literature Circles etc.


  1. Dive deeper into main ideas and opinions
  2. Give everyone the chance to speak

Skills worked on:

  1. Listening
  2. Speaking

Tools Used:

  1. Live RoundTable

Step 4 – Reflection & Review (Outside Class)

Student Activities:

  1. Review personal engagement summary
  2. Reflect on teacher feedback.


  1. Understand own strengths and areas for improvement

Skills worked on:

  1. Metacognition

Tools Used:

  1. Online RoundTable
  2. Live RoundTable


How does this process raise the bar?

In Step 1 students come to understand the material and formulate their own unique ideas.
In Step 2 students explore new perspectives. This forces them to challenge their assumptions and think deeper about the concepts.
In Step 3 students engage in the face-to-face class discussion. Because of the first two steps, the foundation of understanding is much higher.
In Step 4 students reflect on how they can improve next time.

Wrapping Up

There are many ways to use Parlay’s RoundTables. After your first few times using these tools, we know you’ll think up many “use cases” for Parlay in your classroom!
As you may have noticed, the process described above can be intensive for your students. It makes use of the full breadth and depth of Parlay. We recommend working up to this level of sophistication in your Parlay discussions. Your students will enjoy and benefit from the real-time feedback. This process will prepare them for the academic rigour of their university program.

Have any questions or comments?

 Leave them below or send me an email at Bobby@parlayideas.com. We would love to hear from you!

Want to try Parlay?

Your first class is free. Click here to get started.