Personalized Learning Strategy:

Use Discussion Protocols

NOTE: This strategy is part of the self-paced Amplify Learner Voice Course

It’s common for whole class or small group discussions to turn into a handful of learners spending the majority of the time talking. There are a few ways that educators can ensure and promote equity of voice through discussion protocols: 

  • Build think-time into the discussion protocol. Some learners think very quickly and will be the first to talk or raise their hands. Building in think-time for all learners before calling on them or asking them to speak provides time for all learners to prepare something to say. 
  • Pair students together to talk first before asking for the entire group to share. This could look like a think-pair-share or a table discussion. 
  • Track participation in a low-stakes (non-graded) way or have learners track their own participation over time to help them understand when they might want to lean out (and let others speak) or lean in and participate more. 

Provide guidance on who should talk first in a small group, such as the student with the birthday closest to today, and then ask students at their table to go around in a circle. See this tweet with ideas.

Bright Spots

Gain inspiration from authentic examples of this strategy shared by teachers who have used them with their learners.

Creating your own Bright Spots? Let’s get them out into the world! Share yours here.

Equity Sticks

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Calling on students on a rotating basis, either with equity sticks or a random name generator, ensures that all students’ voices are heard over a period of time.

Discussion Map

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Doing a discussion map, digitally or on paper, helps learners reflect on when they are speaking and also can help some learners realize when they need to pause and let others lean in.


Inspired? Use the resources below to bring this learner-centered strategy to your learning community.

🖥 Digital Equity maps
📖 🎧 List of Discussion Protocols
📖 Stand and Talks

(use this before asking the whole class to share and increase levels of participation like the educator who describes this strategy experienced)

📖 Constructivist Listening Dyad

A protocol to practice equity of voice

📺 Put your two cents in discussion

This protocol can be used to give learners a tangible way to track their participation and ensure equity of voice

Related Learner-Centered Content

If you found this helpful, try this related strategy:

Learn More in this Learner-Centered Course:

Do you already do this, earn a micro-credential:

Associated Learner-Centered Competencies:

Promote Equity of Voice:
I use protocols and methods to ensure all learner voices are heard.

Highlight the Process of Thinking:
I use metacognitive strategies to model my thinking process and have learners think about and share their thinking.