One of my most successful programs involves handing over the reins to students and having them present in a panel discussion. Because this type of programming is student driven, students invite their friends, and my panel discussions have been very well attended.
I use panel discussions to give students a voice and they play an important role in increasing knowledge in my school. Last year, I hosted two panel discussions – one by transgender students and one by undocumented students. Both programs got rave reviews from the participants and the students attending. Don’t think that panel discussions have to always be about such heavy topics, though: I’ve also hosted panels where students taught each other how to solve Rubik’s cube.
Planning a panel discussion is easy. As the librarian, I first found students who were interested in talking about their personal situation. I then approached my administrators for their feedback and support. This is a critical step, especially if you think the panel discussion might be controversial.
I usually have some generic questions ready, and I always go over these questions with the panel ahead of time, where they will be ready. However, I’ve found that the conversation flows naturally. My role is that of a facilitator – the students are truly the experts!
These presentations have really sparked continued conversation and fostered new discussions. I encourage you to empower your students by hosting a panel discussion.