Response to Shared Reading

Each participant, except the author, takes an equal amount of time, say, five minutes, to convey how a pre-circulated article intersects with or stimulates their own thinking. The emphasis is on participants teasing out their own thinking, not on digging into the details of what the author has written. The author stays quiet—listening, taking notes, but not responding to what is said. When everyone has spoken, the author then has the opportunity to respond what they have heard.

Discussion can continue for the time available through the turn-taking method of the Dialogue Process. The author may also speak briefly at the very beginning if needed to position the article in relation to their current project or to provide some pertinent background. Preferably, however, the positioning and background is provided in advance as a cover note to the reading.

The virtues of this form of response to a shared reading are:

  • The participants learn more about each other, exposing points of potential interactions.
  • The author gets a chance to see their work through diverse prisms, with the focus moved off the written text and into the realm of wider and less direct influences.
  • One-to-one exchanges are avoided—when the author joins in the discussion, too many points have been made for the author's response to attend to each, one at a time. The risk is greatly reduced of the author focusing on a single point of limited interest to the group as a whole—something that often happens in regular formats in which the author addresses comments from audience members.

  • This form is an adaptation of the practice at the Agrarian Studies Colloquium at Yale University, where the author is only allowed to speak after the end of the first of two hours devoted to discussion of their pre-circulated paper. In that colloquium, however, the focus stays on what the author has written and there is no quota of time for each participant to talk. The Colloquium practice apparently drew from a feminist group whose identity is now unknown.