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Tyler Sullivan

Deliberation Unit
English 138T Section 27
Moderating Philosophy Statement:
During the deliberation process, one of the most rewarding activities I was able to
participate in was being a moderator for the class deliberations. This was something that I had
never experienced before, therefore I was able to mold my own way of moderating, as it was
completely new to me. I knew very little of the process before the beginning of the unit, and
although the thought was initially intimidating, I was able to grasp this concept relatively
quickly, and learn from others as the unit carried on. Initially, I was concerned that I would not
perform well as a moderator, as I tend to get relatively involved in certain debate-like scenarios.
However I believe that I was actually able to use this tendency to better my moderating
technique, by knowing which questions were going to help to steer the deliberation in the right
direction. As I look back on the in class deliberations, my moderating style is one that allows the
students participating in the deliberation to easily find new ways of looking at the topics, and
allows for the discussion to continue running smoothly. I feel that I am successful in these ways
for two main reasons, having well prepared questions in case the deliberation begins to slow,
and being able to put myself into the discussion to allow myself to come up with new questions
that help to dive deeper into the topics at hand. Despite my feeling of success overall as a
moderator, there were still many aspects of the task that proved challenging to me.
As I stated above, I sometimes find it difficult to remain in the middle ground as a
moderator, and successfully hide my opinions on the matter. However I was able to use these
tendencies to ask more in depth questions, helping to keep the deliberation process running
smoothly. Another difficulty that arose was keeping the deliberation topics focused. In our class
discussions, the students seemed to get very involved in the deliberation process, which caused
some of the discussion to veer off topic. In order to resolve this, I had to maintain asking
questions or making comments that would allow the students to continue in the right direction,
while avoiding interrupting the discussion or offending anybody in the process. Overall, I feel
that the moderation experience was one that helped me to discover new tendencies in myself,
as well as improving my strengths and correcting my weaknesses in the process.
Deliberation Evaluation:
Overall, the in class deliberation process was a very productive and informational
process. For me personally, I had never participated in an activity such as this, so I was able to
build my knowledge of how to undergo these types of discussions, the difference between the
deliberation process and an actual debate, and my classmates opinions on the subject of
deliberation, compared to my own. While overall the deliberation process that took place in
class was a success for me and also my classmates, there are also areas that we were not able
to fully cover, as well as processes that we did not conduct in a fashion that is appropriate for a
true deliberation, which will be discussed by using the nine deliberation points on pg. 89 of
Rhetoric and Civic Life.
To start the deliberation process, a group must establish the topic to be discussed, as
well as become as well informed as practical on the subject at hand, establishing a well-
rounded information base. In our class, we did this in a variety of ways, including reading
through the packet that discussed the three options we were to discuss. By doing so, we were
able to gain an understanding of the general idea behind each opinion, and establish our
feelings of what we believed to be correct and/or incorrect with each option, and what we
believed would be the best way to implement each into our society. We also took the next step
of assigning the moderators for each deliberation process, so that students could become well
prepared in their option of focus. For the option to be moderated by a particular student, said
student could take time to learn what type of questions would be appropriate to keep the
deliberation process focused. For the other subjects, they could from their opinion and
contemplate the best way for them to convey to their classmates their particular feelings on
the option at hand. By performing all of these tasks, our class was able to start the deliberation
process off in a promising fashion.
By taking time to prioritize the key components of each discussion, a group is able to
keep a deliberation focused and to the point while maintaining an understanding for the
opinions of others in the process. In our class in particular, this was one of the main
responsibilities of our moderators. By taking the time as a moderator to think of the key
concepts for the opinion at hand, one can be successful in having the ability to steer the class in
the right direction when the deliberation begins to veer from the point of focus. This was a
minor problem for our class, as the deliberation had a tendency to become unfocused at some
points, an aspect that could have been corrected if both the moderators and remaining
students could have had a better understanding of which key points should be included in the
process, so that those particular traits could have been better focused on. However I feel that
this point of emphasis was still covered well overall in our class, as most of the key components
to each of the three options were covered and deliberated in depth.
One of the biggest issues that I feel our class had in the deliberation process was the
ability to successfully complete the third point, developing a broad range of solutions. However
this was not the fault of anyone in particular, as the problem seemed to occur because of the
majority of us sharing the same opinion. Our deliberation groups were fairly small to begin
with, and the facts remain that most of us come from similar lifestyles, and share many of the
same opinions. Because of the lack of the diversity in opinions for some of the key points
discussed, we were not always able to develop a wide range of solutions for each of the three
options. At one point in particular, the deliberation actually stopped for a brief moment while
everyone looked at each other wondering what to discuss next, because there seemed to be a
general agreement on the solution being discussed. Given the situation we were presented
with, I feel that our class deliberation in this subject was as successful as it could have been,
and would have been more so if we had a greater sampling size for opinions. With a greater
number of participants in the deliberation process, there is a larger pool of minds to pick from,
helping to develop a more diverse solution set.
Weighing the pros, cons, and tradeoffs among the solutions that are discussed during
the process in one of the most important points to be successful in during a deliberation, as it is
the key component in making the best final decision possible, and finding what would be the
most appealable to the greatest number of people. In our class, this was one of our greatest
strengths throughout the deliberation process. Particularly, because there were times that
most people agreed with each other, we were able to focus on that particular solution in a
great depth and decide what the strengths and weaknesses were when the solution is
implemented into society. When the class opinions were split, we were able to understand
each others opinions and beliefs in each option, and do our best to accommodate as much
from each opinion as we could. This led to the ability for our class to make the overall best
decision that was possible. Although there was never a true point where, as a class, we decided
on a particular solution, we were able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses in each solution
and which parts we seemed to believe should definitely be implemented into the final solution.
Something that I was surprised we did not have trouble with was the willingness to adjust ones
own opinion based on the information that was presented by others in the class. I feel that a
major issue in deliberation is the stubbornness of students and humans in general, and the
tendency to be unwavering in opinions once ones mind has been made up. However in our
class, there was a great understanding of each others opinions, and willingness to compromise
in creating an optimal final solution.
For our class, I feel that another one of our greatest strengths was accommodating
mostly all of the points that involved the social process of the deliberation. Analytically we
performed well overall, however there were still aspects of the process that we had plenty of
room to improve on, because of the nature of deliberation, as well as the majority of us being
new to the process. When it came to the social process of the deliberation we performed
exceptionally, as we were well prepared in this manner. Most of us have now known each other
since the beginning of our college experiences, and because of this we tend to feel comfortable
with each other, and expressing our opinion with each other without fear of judgment. During
the deliberation, our class was successful with nearly every aspect of the social process points
on pg. 89. Overall, the speaking opportunities were spread out evenly. While some student
tended to participate more than other, it was not due to the lack of opportunity or anybody
hogging the stage; it was simply the nature of some people wanting to share more of their
opinion. Another way that we were successful in the social aspect of deliberation was that we
were able to adequately share our opinions with one another, and comprehend what we were
saying to one another. Because we have now shared a class with each other for many months,
some of us even being good friends, we are used to the way we communicate with one another
and how we tend to share our opinions. This helped to keep the deliberation process running
smoothly, because we did not have to stop for clarification very often and were able to
continue with the process with little interruption. As a final point with the social aspect of our
deliberation, we had no trouble with showing respect and understanding towards one another
throughout the entire process. We were able to be successful in showing considerations
towards the opinions of others in the class, and at no point did anybody become rude with one
another, or show any intentional disrespect. This again stems from the fact that we all know
each other fairly well by now, and are aware of the feelings of our fellow classmates.
Though this process was brand new to me, as well as some of my classmates that also
participated, I felt that the in class deliberations were very successful as a whole. Because of
the concept being new to a lot of us, we were (and still are) learning about how the
deliberation process is to be conducted, however I feel that despite the small kinks, we were
able to be successful in a majority of the nine key points, and with our deliberation overall.
Online Deliberation and Reflection:
The online deliberation part of this unit was another very interesting concept to me, as
it was another new form of this subject for me to learn about. I found myself comparing the
online deliberations to those we conducted in class, and noticing a striking number of
similarities, as well as differences. With both types of deliberation, my classmates and I seemed
to be passionate about the subjects at hand. However in the online deliberations it seemed to
stay on the deliberation path, while the in class deliberations became more similar to debates. I
also feel that during the online deliberations, people were more able to think through what
they were saying, which allowed for a more in depth and well worded deliberation than those
that took place in class.
A major tendency that I noticed with my own writings along with the writings of my
fellow classmates was that people with particular opinions on the subject of General Education
Classes tended to comment on posts with similar opinions. This may be because people felt
more comfortable agreeing with their classmates rather than disagreeing, and potentially
offending somebody that they did not intend to. When I commented, I tended to comment on
the posts of either people I knew personally, so that I knew they would not get offended from
what I had to say, or somebody that seemed to have a similar opinion as me on the subject. I
believe that the flaw in this is that it limits the deliberation discussion as a whole. Either it limits
the amount of interaction between new people, which doesnt allow one to reach the
potentials of learning about new opinions from people they would not normally interact with,
or when reading of others opinions, blindly agreeing with them, which limits the bouncing of
ideas off of one another and prevents the deliberation from having the analysis that it had the
potential to have.
A major positive that I feel came from the online deliberation portion of this unit is that
it took place in a very friendly, and familiar setting to our generation. The Yammer website
that the deliberation took place on was very similar to Facebook, which is a site that nearly
every student has an account for, or is at least familiar with. Because of this type of setting, I
believe that students were more willing to actively participate in the discussion and share their
opinion with the world. In our generation we share our opinion online about nearly every
aspect of our lives, including what we had for dinner last night or how we cant even right
now, like ugh. If we can share those opinions so easily, then asking for us to deliberate online
in a very similar fashion was not a difficult transition to make. This willingness to participate
sparked a more passionate deliberation process, and guaranteed that every student would
share their opinion, which was not a guarantee during the in class deliberation process.