Discussion Questions
The following discussion questions are aligned with College Unbound’s Big 10 competencies, and you can adapt these questions to use in facilitator guides and learning journals for your learning circle. TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Accountability

Demonstrates the ability to meet or exceed agreed-upon expectations, taking ownership of all that happens as a result of personal choices and actions, and looking for solutions when there is a problem.
  1. 1.
    Demonstrates personal responsibility – acknowledges and corrects mistakes.
    a. What is a mistake you now realize you have made related to [topic of week/learning circle]? How might you correct it now and/or avoid it in the future? b. What is a mistake you have made? What did you do to address it?
  2. 2.
    Practices integrity – walks their talk. a. How does the [topic of week/learning circle] align with and/or challenge your values and beliefs? b. How will what you have learned from the [topic of week/learning circle] allow you to act in accordance with your values and beliefs? c. Give an example of when you have walked your talk. Said differently, give an example of when your action and behavior aligned with what you believe and value. d. Give an example of when you acted professionally in a challenging situation.
  3. 3.
    Effectively prioritizes and manages life and learning goals. a. What do you want to learn this [week/learning circle]? How will you manage your time to do so? b. How will this learning circle help you achieve a goal? c. How do you set and prioritize goals? d. Give an example of how you have prioritized between competing goals. e. Create a realistic timeline for this project. Tell why it is realistic and doable. f. Give an example of when you have created a timeline for a project and it didn’t work. What did you learn about how to create timelines from this experience? g. Give an example of when you have created a timeline for a project, evaluated your progress along the way, adjusted as necessary, and achieved your goal. h. Give an example of when you set and achieved a goal. What worked well? What was challenging? What would you do differently in the future? i. Set a goal. Create a timeline to achieve your goal. Evaluate your progress at key points in your timeline and make adjustments as necessary. Upon completion, identify what worked well, what did not, and determine what you want to remember in the future.
  4. 4.
    Is accountable for deadlines, results, and end products. a. What will it mean for you to be accountable to members of this learning circle? b. How will what you learned this [week/learning circle] help you be more successful in meeting deadlines with quality work? c. Give an example of how you have/have not balanced the sometimes competing goals of completing work on time and doing your best work. What did you do, what worked well, what would you change next time? d. Give an example of when you have missed a deadline. What did you do when you realized you were not going to make the deadline? What, if anything, would you do differently in the future? e. Give an example of when you have held yourself accountable for deadlines, results, and/or end products?
  5. 5.
    Seeks feedback and is open to constructive criticism. a. Ask for feedback on [this week’s assignment] from three different people. Evaluate what you gained from this feedback and how you can use it. b. When have you asked for feedback? How did you process it? c. Give an example of when you have been open to constructive criticism. What did you gain from this experience? d. What kind of feedback would you like to receive on _______? e. How have you applied the feedback that you received on ________?
  6. 6.
    Demonstrates preparedness. a. How do/will you make sure you are well-prepared for the next meeting of this learning circle? b. Describe a time when you were not well-prepared. What happened? How did you deal with the situation? What have or will you do in the future when you find yourself in a similar situation? c. Give an example of when you have demonstrated your preparedness.
  7. 7.
    Is punctual and honors meeting commitments. a. Are you someone who consistently shows up on time? Why or why not? b. How will you hold yourself accountable to be on time for our gatherings?

Advocacy for Self & Others

Actively negotiates positive change for self and/or others, clearly seeing both sides of the issue and proposing new processes or parameters that more effectively meet the needs of all stakeholders.
  1. 1.
    Makes own decisions about short and long term plans.
    a. What are your goals for this learning circle? What is your plan for achieving these goals? b. How does this learning circle fit into your plans for longer term life/learning goals? c. What is one of your life or learning goals? What is your plan for achieving this goal? d. How will you advocate and/or create opportunities for yourself to achieve this goal?
  2. 2.
    Practices assertive communication. a. Give an example of how you have asked for what you needed using “I” statements and without blaming others. b. Give an example of how you have stood up for yourself, your needs, and/or your rights. c. Give an example of how you have stood up for others. d. How will what you have learned this [week/learning circle] help you communicate as an advocate for yourself and/or others?
  3. 3.
    Fosters group responsibility of welfare of selves and others. a. In this learning circle, how will you support the well-being of yourself and others? b. Give an example of how you support the welfare of yourself and others. c. How can you use what you learned this [week/learning circle] to advance the well-being of yourself and others?
  4. 4.
    Works for positive change. a. How have/do/will you work for positive change? b. How have you used compromise to move forward? c. How have you negotiated between differing perspectives? d. How will you apply what you have learned this [week/learning circle] to work for positive change?

Collaboration

Deliberately partners with others, negotiating, challenging, and being challenged on issues of partnership, in order to produce something together.
  1. 1.
    Engages effectively with the members of their Personal Learning Network. a. Map your learning network. Who are your mentors, coaches, cheerleaders, subject-area experts, editors? What are their special talents? b. How might you draw upon your network to support and extend your learning during this learning circle experience? c. How well do you communicate with, show appreciation for, and learn with and from your network? What would you like to improve about this and how do you plan to do so? d. Who would you like to add to your network? What is your plan for doing so? e. What are three ways in which this learning circle has helped you expand and/or more effectively engage with your learning network?
  2. 2.
    Ensures contributions of self and others. a. How did you contribute to the discussion in this week’s learning circle? b. How did you support others in contributing to the discussion in this week’s learning circle? c. How do you plan to contribute to the discussion in next week’s learning circle? d. How do you plan to support others in contributing to the discussion in next week’s learning circle? e. Give an example of when you clearly expressed your ideas in a group discussion. Why did you pick this example? f. What are the characteristics of a collaborative discussion participant? g. What are the characteristics of a problematic discussion participant? h. What are the characteristics of a collaborative discussion leader? i. What are the characteristics of a problematic discussion leader? j. Give an example of when you have demonstrated the characteristics of a collaborative discussion participant or leader. k. Describe the characteristics of an active listener. l. Give an example of when you have been an active listener. What were you able to accomplish by doing this?
  3. 3.
    Objectively listens to dissent and alternate points of view, engaging in dialogue rather than debate. a. How can you apply / have you applied what you learned this [week/learning circle] to engage in constructive dialogue about [topic of learning circle]? b. Summarize the alternative points of view you have learned about this [topic of learning circle]. c. Give an example of when you engaged in dialogue rather than debate. What were you able to accomplish by doing this?
  4. 4.
    Negotiates and manages conflict. a. Describe a time when you struggled to deal with a conflict. What happened? How did you deal with the situation? What have or will you do in the future when you find yourself in a similar situation? b. How can you apply / have you applied what you learned this [week/learning circle] to negotiate and manage conflict? c. Give an example of how you have managed a conflict. What did you do, how did it work, and what, if anything, would you do differently?
  5. 5.
    Offers and receives constructive criticism. a. How can you apply / have you applied what you learned this [week/learning circle] to offer / receive constructive criticism? b. Give an example of when you offered constructive criticism. What did you do, how did it work, and what, if anything, would you do differently? c. Give an example of when you received constructive criticism. What did you do, how did it work out?

Communication (Written, Oral, Visual)

Constructs sustained, coherent argument or presentation on issues and processes in more than one medium for general and specific audiences, adapting behaviors and goals to meet the needs of interaction and achieve shared meaning.
  1. 1.
    Uses knowledge of audience and context to shape communication. a. How can you apply / have you applied what you learned this [week/learning circle] to use knowledge of audience and context to shape communication? b. Who is the audience for what you have created/written/recorded? c. What are your greatest strengths as an interpersonal/visual/oral/written communicator? How do you plan to build upon these strengths? d. What are your greatest opportunities to develop as an interpersonal/visual/oral/written communicator? How do you plan to do so? e. How are you targeting the expectations, values, and beliefs for your audience? f. How are you adapting this work to fit the context in which it will be read/heard/experienced? g. What decisions have you made about language, style, organization, media, and design based upon your audience, purpose, and the context?
  2. 2.
    Articulates and defends a compelling controlling idea clearly and effectively. a. How can you apply / have you applied what you learned this [week/learning circle] to make a compelling argument for your position? b. How have/can you make a compelling argument for your position? c. What is your main idea and how is it communicated? d. How might you anticipate and prevent someone from misunderstanding or not getting your main idea? e. Describe a time when you were misunderstood. What would you do differently now to prevent such a misunderstanding?
  3. 3.
    Uses sources and evidence effectively. a. How can you apply / have you applied what you learned this [week/learning circle] to use sources and evidence effectively? b. What new sources and evidence have you learned about this [week/learning circle]? c. Describe a time when you were able to convince someone of your position by using evidence. What worked? Why? d. What evidence do you need to be more persuasive? e. What sources have/will you look at to better understand this issue? Why are these good sources? Do your sources pass the CRAAP test?
  4. 4.
    Demonstrates control over organization, voice, word choice, and conventions of English. a. How can you apply / have you applied what you learned this [week/learning circle] to proofread and edit your work so that it is well organized, gracefully written, and clear? b. Have you used grammar and spell check? c. Have you read your writing out loud to proofread it and check for flow? d. Who is your go-to person for proofreading?

Creativity

Consistently brings into being products, processes, or thoughts that did not previously exist, merging ideas and making connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena to generate solutions.
  1. 1.
    Demonstrates imagination and innovative thinking, suggesting new solutions to old problems. a. How can you apply what you have learned this [week/learning circle] about thinking innovatively / imaginatively/ creatively? b. What new ideas do you have for solving a vexing problem that you currently face? c. Give an example of when you suggested a new solution to an existing problem. d. Give an example of your own or someone else’s imaginative or innovative thinking? What made it imaginative or innovative? e. When have you had to deal with a messy problem? What did you do? How did it work?
  2. 2.
    Takes risks. a. What is a risk or chance you might take here? b. How did you take a risk last week? What did you do? What did you think would happen? How did it work out? c. How did you take a risk in this learning circle? What did you do? What did you think would happen? How did it work out? d. Give an example of when you took a risk or a chance. What did you do? What did you think would happen? How did it work out
  3. 3.
    Demonstrates fluency and flexibility in brainstorming. a. How can you apply what you have learned this [week/learning circle] to brainstorm more effectively? b. For this problem or challenge, list all of the ways you can think of to address it, no matter how unlikely. c. What are 6 different ways you might approach this problem? d. How do you brainstorm? e. Are you good at brainstorming, why or why not? f. What might you do differently? g. How have you been creative in __________? h. [ask for answer to a question] What are six other ways you could answer this question
  4. 4.
    Embraces contradictions. a. What are the different perspectives advanced in [assigned materials]? b. How do these [assigned materials] contractice each other? How might you resolve this contradiction? c. What contradictions or differing perspectives did you notice this week? d. What are contradictory or different ideas or perspectives on this issue/question/problem/topic? What might you take from each to develop your own position?

Critical Thinking

Engages in evidence-based practice, able to identify the issue/dilemma/problem, frame it as a specific question, explore and evaluate information relevant to the question, and draw conclusions, applying conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence.
  1. 1.
    Accesses, analyzes, and connects information, considering its relationship to context and evidence. a. How do you interpret/analyze/evaluate the information presented in this learning circle to determine if it is of value for you? b. How can you apply what you have learned this [week/learning circle] to find and use valid, reliable, and relevant information? c. What is the purpose, audience, and context for which the [assigned materials] were developed? How does this influence how you interpret their relevance for you? d. Compare and contrast the arguments/evidence/information presented by xx and yy. e. What do you think xx means by yy? f. How might you use/apply the information shared by xx? g. What are the limitations of the points xx is making? h. Where do you disagree with xx? Why? i. Why might what xx has to say not be relevant in yy situation/context? j. What does xx not understand about yy? k. Drawing upon the information presented this week/learning circle, how would you persuade others to xx? l. What causes and/or effects has xx failed to consider? m. Whose experience has xx failed to consider? n. When is a time when you in your head or out loud called “bullshit”? Why? o. Give an example of when you have interpreted/analyzed/evaluated information to make a decision. How did you do so?
  2. 2.
    Identifies and considers the influence of bias and others’ assumptions. a. Which of the 24 logical fallacies here can you identify in xx? b. Which of the 24 instances of cognitive bias here can you identify in xx? c. You/your team have/has 10 minutes, how many examples of logical fallacies/cognitive bias can you find in xx? d. How do you check your own reasoning for logical fallacies/cognitive bias? e. What assumptions is this author/source making? How do you know? f. How might these assumptions compromise the value of this source? g. What biases do you detect in this source? How might this bias affect its claims/conclusions? h. What points of view might this author/source not be considering? i. How can you apply what you have learned this [week/learning circle] to identify bias and assumptions in others thinking?
  3. 3.
    Develops an informed and effective position based on relevant criteria. a. What are your criteria for making a good decision? b. How do/will you acknowledge and respond to other points of view? How do you know? c. How do/will you recognize and address your own assumptions and biases? How do you know? d. Give an example of when you have acknowledged the limits of your position. e. Give an example of when you have dealt with a complex decision. Tell how you came to and communicated your conclusion. f. What makes this issue/decision/challenge complex? g. How can you apply what you have learned this [week/learning circle] to determine your criteria and make a decision?
  4. 4.
    Reconstructs one’s beliefs on the basis of wider experience. a. Has what you have learned this [week/learning circle] changed your mind about xx? If so, how and why? b. Give an example of when you have changed your mind based upon careful reasoning and/or new evidence or information.

Intercultural Engagement

Continuously improves capacity to identify own cultural patterns, compare and contrast them with others, engage in respectful dialogue, and adapt empathically and flexibly to unfamiliar ways of being.
  1. 1.
    Understands own cultural identity. a. Who were your people? How would you describe the traditions, rules, values, and beliefs of the culture(s) that you grew up in? What have you continued to embrace and practice and what have you moved away from? Why? b. Who are your people? How have you explored new cultures, traditions, rules, values, and beliefs over time? c. How has what you have learned this [week/learning circle] helped you better understand your own cultural identity?
  2. 2.
    Open to others. a. What cultures are represented in this learning circle? How might you draw upon the strengths of your respective cultures to learn together? b. What is one thing you would like to share from your culture(s) with the members of your learning circle? c. Share a recipe from your culture, explaining why it has meaning for you and what it demonstrates about your culture. d. Give an example of when you have embraced the opportunity to connect with individuals from a different culture. How did it go? What did you learn? What would you do differently next time? e. How has what you have learned this [week/learning circle] expanded your understanding/appreciation of another culture(s)?
  3. 3.
    Considers multiple worldviews. a. How would you describe your worldview? How has it developed/evolved over time? b. What is another worldview you are interested in exploring? c. Compare and contrast the cultures of xx and yy countries. d. How are the values / belief systems / power structures / ways of living of two or more cultures (in different places or times) connected? e. How might connections between cultures help address global challenges like food insecurity, climate change, or pandemics? f. How can/will you apply what you have learned about different world views?
  4. 4.
    Challenges cultural misperceptions. a. Describe a time when you individually or with others challenged bias, discrimination, or harassment. What happened? What might you do differently? b. How can you apply what you have learned this [week/learning circle] to more challenge cultural misperceptions / bias / discrimination / prejudice / harassment?
  5. 5.
    Actively advances social justice. a. How have you advanced social justice? b. Describe a time when you worked actively to advance social justice? c. How can you apply what you have learned this [week/learning circle] to advance social justice?

Problem Solving

Identifies and analyzes problems and uses prior knowledge, logic, and imagination, weighing the relevance and accuracy of information to develop, recommend, and implement alternative solutions.
  1. 1.
    Identifies and defines the problem. a. What is the problem? b. How do you know it is a problem? c. Why is it a problem that needs to be solved? d. Why is it a problem that needs to be solved now? e. What is and what is not part of the problem? How do you know? f. Based upon what you learned this [week/learning circle] how has your understanding of the problem challenged?
  2. 2.
    Asks the right questions. a. What did you learn this [week/learning circle] about how to ask better questions? How have/will you apply this? b. Why is asking the right questions crucial for problem solving? c. Give an example of when you did/did not ask the right questions about a problem. What happened? What did you learn? What would you do differently next time? d. List all of your questions about the problem. Which of the questions are most likely to help you get to the root of the problem?
  3. 3.
    Identifies strategies for solving the problem. a. What did you learn this [week/learning circle] about how to identify strategies for solving a problem? How have/will you apply this? b. What is the difference between a strategy for solving and a solution to a problem? Give an example of each for a problem you have or are encountering. c. Give an example of when you did/did not identify a strategy for solving your problem. What happened? What did you learn? What would you do differently next time? d. What are at least three strategies for solving the problem? e. Who can you consult for advice on this problem? f. What are at least three solutions to this problem?
  4. 4.
    Proposes, evaluates and selects from among alternative solutions. a. What did you learn this [week/learning circle] about how to evaluate and select from alternative solutions? How have/will you apply this? b. Give an example of when you did/did not consider alternative solutions to a problem. What happened? What did you learn? What would you do differently next time? c. How do you propose to evaluate these possible solutions? d. Which solution(s) did you pick and why? e. What are the short and long term consequences of each solution?
  5. 5.
    Implements solution. a. What did you learn this [week/learning circle] about how to implement a solution? How have/will you apply this? b. Give an example of when you did/did not successfully implement a solution. What happened? What did you learn? What would you do differently next time? c. How have/will you implement your solution? d. What challenges do you anticipate in implementing this solution and how do you propose to address them?
  6. 6.
    Evaluates outcomes. a. What did you learn this [week/learning circle] about how to evaluate outcomes? How have/will you apply this? b. Give an example of when you did/did not evaluate a solution. What happened? What did you learn? What would you do differently next time? c. How will you evaluate your solution? d. Describe a time when you solved a problem. What did you do, what worked well, what would you change next time? e. What has surprised you most about the process of solving a problem? f. What is your biggest challenge when trying to solve a problem? g. What was your most successful failure to solve a problem?

Reflection

Engages in an intentional process of continuous learning, consciously analyzing personal decision-making and actions as well as the reactions they prompt in themselves and others, drawing on theory and experience, and modifying actions as for the benefit of themselves and the communities they serve.
  1. 1.
    Connects learning experiences and growth, acknowledging and articulating changed perspectives. a. What do you already know about the week’s topic? b. How has what you have learned this week connected to, changed, challenged, and/or deepened what you already know from prior experience? c. What do you want to know more about? d. How has your understanding of xx changed over time/this learning circle?
  2. 2.
    Engages in honest self-appraisal, analyzing performance with the goal of improving. a. What did you do well / where did you struggle / where were you confused this week? b. When you were challenged, surprised, and/or proud of yourself this week? c. What are your strengths in xxx? d. What is one thing you want to improve based upon what you learned this week?
  3. 3.
    Displays curiosity. a. What are you curious about? b. What was the most surprising thing this week? c. Describe a time when you needed or wanted to know or learn something? What did you do? What did you and did you not enjoy about the experience? d. What new thing did you learn last week
  4. 4.
    Manages impulsivity. a. What did you learn this [week/learning circle] about how to manage impulsivity? How have/will you apply this? b. Give an example of when you did/did not think before you acted. How did it work out? What would you do differently next time?
  5. 5.
    Uses self-awareness to guide choices and behaviors. a. What did you learn this [week/learning circle] about your strengths and weaknesses? How have/will you apply this? b. Give an example of when you used your awareness of both your strengths and weaknesses to make a decision. c. How do you learn best? How can you use that knowledge to make this learning circle a success?

Resilience

Able to maintain effectiveness, remaining focused, composed, and optimistic when faced with time pressures, adversity, disappointment, or opposition, and recovers quickly from setbacks and failures.
  1. 1.
    Persists in finding necessary resources to accomplish goals. a. What resources have you gained this [week/learning circle] for achieving a goal(s)? b. Describe a time when you persisted to accomplish a goal. What strategies, resources, and supports did you draw upon to achieve your goal?
  2. 2.
    Demonstrates flexibility and adapts readily to change. a. What did you learn this [week/learning circle] about how to adapt rapidly to change? How have/will you apply this? b. Give an example of when you have demonstrated flexibility and adapted to change. What did you do? What worked? What didn’t? What do you want to remember for next time? c. Describe a time when you changed priorities to respond to the changes in a situation. What did you do? What worked? What didn’t? What do you want to remember for next time? d. Tell about a time when you had a plan in place but had to change it to deal with unanticipated challenges. What did you do? What worked? What didn’t? What do you want to remember for next time?
  3. 3.
    Develops and accesses a system of supports. a. What did you learn this [week/learning circle] about how to build your support system? How have/will you apply this? b. Map your support network, using arrows to indicate who you support and who supports you. What are the strengths of this network? Where might you want to develop more support? c. Describe a time when you and others supported each other to deal with a challenge and/or achieve a goal. What worked? What didn’t? What do you want to remember for next time?
  4. 4.
    Breaks an initially complex task into manageable steps. a. What did you learn this [week/learning circle] about how to break a complex task into manageable steps? How have/will you apply this? b. Give two-three examples of how you have broken complex tasks into manageable steps. Looking across these examples, what are the key ingredients for your success in tackling big challenges?
  5. 5.
    Uses humor to maintain perspective. a. What did you learn this [week/learning circle] that has/can/will help you maintain perspective when challenged / stressed? b. When life is particularly challenging, what do you do to keep perspective?
  6. 6.
    Enjoys learning. a. What have you enjoyed about your learning experience this [week/learning circle]? b. What do you like about learning? c. Tell about a time when you sought out a challenge or problem to solve? Why did you do so and what did you take from the experience? d. What is something you have learned that you would like to share with others? e. What do you want to learn next? f. What would you like to offer a learning circle on?