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Four Corners Discussion

This support material is incorporated into critical challenges at grades 9 and 12, however, it can be adapted for use at all grade levels.

The Four Corners Discussion strategy offers an alternative to traditional debates. Instead of staking out and defending a position, a Four Corners Discussion encourages students to listen attentively to others and to reconsider their position based on new evidence or convincing arguments presented. The Four Corners Discussion encourages students to use evidence to support a point of view, carefully listen to other points of view and remain open-minded as they reflect on the evidence and arguments presented.

To set up a Four Corners Discussion:

  • label each corner of the room with one of the following labels—STRONGLY AGREE, AGREE, DISAGREE, STRONGLY DISAGREE
  • provide the class with a statement on a pertinent issue; for example, "The Canadian Senate serves a vital role in Canada's parliamentary system and should be kept as it is." 
  • invite students to consider the statement and then move to the corner of the room that best represents their position on the issue
  • ask students to turn to one other person in the corner and ask each partner to take 30 seconds to provide an explanation for his or her choice
  • if any student finds that his or her views are inconsistent with the group, he or she may want to consider moving to another corner.

To begin the discussion:

  • invite a student from the STRONGLY AGREE corner to explain why they chose that corner
  • remind students that they must support their position with accurate and relevant evidence and must be consistent in their position
  • next, invite a student from the STRONGLY DISAGREE  corner to defend their position
  • continue this pattern until students from all four corners have made statements
  • continue the discussion by inviting students from all the corners to join in the discussion.

Remind students that they are encouraged to change corners if they hear new evidence or convincing arguments that cause them to alter their point of view. They do not have to completely change their viewpoint; they may, for example, choose to move from the STRONGLY AGREE  to the AGREE corner.

If, after 7–10 minutes of discussion, there has been little or no movement, ask all students to come together in the centre of the room. Once in the centre of the room, encourage students to turn to someone who was not in their corner and to explain why they continue to hold the viewpoint they do and what they would have to hear to persuade them to change. After each student has had an opportunity to explain his or her position, invite all students to return to a corner, encouraging them to move to a new corner if they have heard convincing evidence or arguments.

Once students have returned to the corners, invite them to explain why they changed corners or why they have not changed by identifying what they would need to hear to prompt a change in corners.

Reflections on Four Corners Discussion
This chart supports students in thinking about aspects of the discussion. To use this chart, the student:

  • indicates his or her position on the square and provides supporting reasons at the start of the discussion
  • summarizes interesting arguments offered by two other students that caused him or her to wonder about or rethink his or her position
  • indicates whether he or she moved during the discussion
  • provides reasons for remaining in the same position or for changing position
  • lists the four most powerful reasons that support his or her final position on the issue.

Assessing Four Corners Discussion 
An assessment rating scale is available to support assessment of student performance while listening to the discussion.

Self-assessment of Four Corners Discussion
An assessment rubric is available to help students assess their participation and preparedness for the discussion.


Adapted from Critical Challenges Across the Curriculum series.  Permission granted by The Critical Thinking Consortium for use by Alberta teachers.


Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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