Putting it All Together: The IRF Model

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Unit 5 Introduction

The entire class answering questions, making comments, asking questions, and not just to the teacher, but to each other. This would be a great social studies class to see in action, and it is close to happening. With the previous lessons we have worked on why discussion is needed and have examined all of the parts of the IRF Model. Now it is time to put it all together. Through initiating higher order thinking questions, assisting students with their responses and then providing feedback that fosters more discussion, students will be engaged in the material and analyzing tough questions. The IRF Model increases student comprehension and makes them active learners in the classroom.

Unit 5 Objectives

1) In a social studies classroom the student (classroom teacher) will be able to justify the use of higher order questions and classroom discussion.

2) In a social studies classroom the student (classroom teacher) will be able to utilize and implement the IRF Model to fuel classroom discussion and increase student comprehension.


Ken Jones states that research over the past twenty-five years has continually shown that discussion based courses provide better results than lecture based.[1] Therefore, the IRF Model must be used constantly in the classroom to ensure students are always thinking about facts and their meaning, not just worrying about memorizing pieces of information. The parts to the IRF Model have been covered in the previous lessons, but here is a summary of the major components.

1) Initiate - It is important for the initial question to be of a higher order thinking nature. The question must be clear and students need to pull facts to support and create their theory. The question should have students truly thinking, not just spitting out a name or a date.

2) Response - Even though the response is ultimately up to the student, the teacher can do several things to try and assist the student. Wait time, proximity and a safe classroom environment will definitely increase the likelihood that the student will be able to forumulate a great response.

3) Feedback - After the student response the teacher must not simply evaluate the answer and end the discussion. The teacher needs to create questions from the answer, ask other students to explalin the reasoning from the answer, or have the class comment or chime in with their own viewpoint. The feedback should try to engage as many students as possible and the teacher should let the students do most of the talking, the teacher should just facilitate.

When all these three aspects are followed in a social studies classroom, the class will have deep intellectual discussions that will greatly enhance the class's ability to learn.


1) Read and summarize the Ken Jones article about classroom discussion[2] and then comment on the IRF Model in the discussion space. IRF Discuss

2) Go and use the IRF Model in your social studies classroom and enjoy the improved results and increased knowledge that your students will show!

Mini-Lesson Wrap-Up

This mini-course started by showing how imperative classroom discussion is in general. Then we learned why the IRE Model is not the right vehicle to get to effective discussions. Then we examined the three aspects individually for the IRF Model. Now we have put it all together so you can go and utilize highly effective discussions in your social studies classroom.

Effective Social Studies Discussions will not only increase student comprehension on the content, it will greatly benefit students for their entire education careers and beyond. Discussing teachers students how to think, learn and argue their points which come into play on a day to day basis. In education we always hear about connecting the content to student's lives, well now it is time to connect our teaching strategies to student's lives as well.

Thank you and I hope you enjoyed the course!

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