Frequently Asked Questions

Common Questions About R.E.A.L.®

We offer transformative PD that turns teachers into global leaders in discussion-based learning. There are several different paths, though all center on R.E.A.L. Certification. Learn more under: PROGRAMS.

Two Things: PD for Humanities Teachers (through sprint, cohort, or custom learning paths) and Curriculum for gr. 7-10 students (includes digital and print resources and opportunities for customization). All schools using R.E.A.L. Discussion also have access to our Community: resources, events, coaching, etc.. Learn more under: PROGRAMS.

R.E.A.L.® is designed for middle grades years and often fits best in Humanities classrooms. It works in any class that uses texts, gives homework, and does 10+ discussions in a year. We currently offer two, leveled, curricula – R.E.A.L.® Junior for ages 11-14, and R.E.A.L.® Classic for ages 14-16. In 2022-23, we will debut products for earlier and older years!

R.E.A.L.® Discussion is founded on the idea that great conversation includes different, often competing, perspectives — and the reality that, in a classroom setting, differences of opinion can be both beautiful and complicated for a teacher to manage!

The R.E.A.L.® system ensures that all students feel heard and challenged to grow through class discussion. It also empowers teachers to study the student experience in terms of belonging and growth.

And the best part? R.E.A.L.® doesn’t only make discussion more equitable. Every single teacher who has used it also says it makes conversation more rigorous and easier to assess.

Ideally, a team of three or more teachers. It’s great if it’s an entire grade-level and even better if the group includes a lead or coordinator. Why? Because once R.E.A.L.® gets into a school, people start talking about it. Thankfully, it’s usually “good press” but it’s definitely useful for administrators to have a baseline familiarity with the practice.

R.E.A.L.® fits into the curriculum you already have – that is the point! For example, schools following the IB* curriculum will find that R.E.A.L.® fits neatly into key ideas and inquiry cycles and offers an effective strategy for practicing and formatively assessing skills articulated in the Learner Profile and Approaches to Learning. Other schools will find that R.E.A.L.® slots in ahead of Harkness**, or wherever teachers are instructed to “have a discussion,” “socratic seminar,” or “fishbowl.”

*IB is a registered trademark of International Baccalaureate Organization. R.E.A.L. is not affiliated in any way with the IBO.

** Harkness is a registered trademark of Phillips Exeter Academy. R.E.A.L. is not affiliated in any way with the Academy.

Nope – though we wish it were! That said, it’s a system that approaches discussion differently. Using a combination of lived classroom experience and research about conversation in life beyond schools, we have reverse-engineered a system that develops shared language, solves for common pain points, and structures students for success. It doesn’t promise perfect discussions, but the R.E.A.L.® approach of Discussion as a Discipline does guarantee depth and growth.

Liza Cowan Garonzik built R.E.A.L.® in 2013 as a homegrown solution for helping her anxious, screen-addled students have better conversations about history, literature, and life. Since then, R.E.A.L.® has evolved thanks to feedback from dozens of teachers and thousands of students!  We are still growing — and, actually we are looking for team members. Curious? Reach out to Liza.

Yes! Our portfolio-based approach to assessing discussion is the “secret sauce” when it comes to how we make student-led conversation equitable, rigorous, and growth-focused. R.E.A.L.® Coursepacks come with a Portfolio and Online Portal resources for each student; we’re happy to show you a sample in a demo call. A one-year curriculum license is included in most of our R.E.A.L. Certification programs for teachers. We also sell all-school licenses on an annual basis. Contact us to learn more!

Students express relief at clear expectations, consistent routines, and a sense of purpose when it comes to discussion. Although students might not say they “love” their newfound growth mindsets, we count the statistic that after using R.E.A.L.® 86% of students say that “discussion is something I can get better at if I work on it” (compared to 15% pre-R.E.A.L.®) as a major victory! Teachers all report that R.E.A.L.® improves student’s analytical writing and makes discussion itself more rigorous, equitable, and easier to assess. Many comment that it’s a lot less work than other methods, that they appreciate knowing that every student will be engaged and enjoy getting to know their students better in the process.

Some students bristle at the amount of reflection or level of structure (though most appreciate it over time, especially as they see their growth). Some teachers feel that the learning curve is too slow (which we have worked hard to address through solutions like an online, video-based orientation for students). Others wonder at the relevance of a system that relies on handwritten notes in the age of screens (we would respectfully refer those skeptics to the research, perhaps beginning with Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014) or Morehead, Dunlosky, and Rawson (2019)).

We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has undercut funding at many great schools. That said, equity is a cornerstone of R.E.A.L.® and we will do whatever we can to bring your – and your students’ – voices to the table. If you or your team is interested in learning R.E.A.L.® Discussion but unable to pay full price, please email Liza.

Lots of folks ask us if they can use R.E.A.L. for student-led discussion outside the classroom, like in Advisory or Affinity Groups. The answer is simple: At R.E.A.L., we believe that discussion skills are so important that deserve to be taught, practiced, and assessed in a core academic class.

That said, when students are trained in R.E.A.L. through their Humanities classrooms, they will use R.E.A.L. skills in all kinds of other contexts. Too often in schools, we ask kids to have deep conversation (and spend a lot of time curating compelling content) … but we skip the step of teaching them how. R.E.A.L. ensures that every student will know how to engage in meaningful, screen-free, student-led discussion — in and beyond the classroom.

Just ask! We are always up for a good conversation.