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Teaching Through Discussion: Facilitating Meangingful Discussion in the Classroom

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Danielle Scherer

on 5 August 2013

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Transcript of Teaching Through Discussion: Facilitating Meangingful Discussion in the Classroom

Facilitating Meaningful
Discussion in the Classroom

Teaching Through Discussion
Danielle K. Scherer

Why is discussion important?
promotes exchange/inquiry
helps students understand material
helps students develop attentive, respectful listening
develops communication skills
helps students develop skills of synthesis and integration
Tradition logic
enhances self awareness
encourages students to question their assumptions
affirms students as cocreators of knowledge
encourages students to take ownership of the learning experience
Other assets
There are plenty!
too much material
material is difficult
difficult to foster engagement
chit chat
dominating students

unwilling students
unprepared students
uninformed students
Wouldn't it be easier to just lecture?
what are some of limitations to discussion as a teaching tool?
Discussion is a tool
it only works when used correctly
Discussion is not the same thing as conversation

Discussion is something different
The importance of preparation cannot be emphasized enough.

Create ground rules - LET THE CLASS KNOW
- be clear what is expected of the students
- be clear what the purpose of the exercise is
- be clear about the evaluation of the exercise

When designing a lesson plan, be clear what you want students to walk away from the class with and ask yourself if your plan accomplishes that.

Provide structured prereading
- Consider providing questions/topics ahead of time
- Reinforce what you asked them to do with the readings in class
Take the exercise seriously
- make the assessment tool reflect the importance of the activity
- make it known when students meet or fail to meet expectations

Be aware of the group's dynamics
- don't lecture or steamroll
- don't let anyone dominate
- try not to play favorites
- deal with hot moments immediately

Ask the right kind of questions!

Try to decolonize the classroom
be an authority but not an authoritarian
legitimate student voices and opinions
create space for students to lead discussion
allow the discussion to move in unpredicted ways

encourage appropriate and respectful behavior
they don't have to agree to get along
encourage engaged pluralism
Many students (especially at large universities) feel like just another number and are hesitant to speak up amongst those they view as strangers.

create a community amongst your class
break the ice early
know names and encourage students to as well
be approachable and a member of the community
encourage students to talk with each other not to you

Large Group Discussion
creates an open environment
many potentially diverse opinions
easy to monitor

allows for freeriding
may not have time for everyone to talk
difficult with very large groups
Think, Pair, Share
everyone is actively involved
quick and easy
allow shy or uncertain students a low cost opportunity to contribute

Can be time consuming
Can lead to chit chat if not clearly structured
Jig Saws
There are several types:
Different questions
Different readings
gets everyone involved
encourages ownership
develops several skills for students
gives students a clear responsibility
introduces movement

heavily depends on preparation
can be time consuming
assign students pairs associated with times or colors or states or whatever proxy you like
develops student relationships over time
requires student interaction and responsibility
gets students to talk to someone other than the people they sit next to

can be time consuming
start with a pair and after a few minutes, combine pairs into larger and larger groups, asking new questions with each addition
Everyone is involved
Students can see evolution of arguments/opinions

Time consuming
assigning positions frees students who may be uneasy giving their opinions.
students take ownership of activity and are responsible for specific contributions

depends on student preparation
make the exercise graded
incorporate movement
asks students to put knowledge into practice
specific contributions
requires a lot of preparation on your and their part
most effective when revisited or prolonged (time)
Think of a time when you've been part of a particularly good or bad discussion...
What made it good or bad?
Discussion Leaders
clear expectations
gives students room to express their opinions
allows students opportunities to lead
encourages ownership of learning experience
students can determine direction of class

can be stressful for some students
Other Suggestions?
Education by nature is transformative and as such it is always a challenge and somewhat uncomfortable.
great Discussion isn't always easy to foster
When students own and are involved in their learning they retain information better and the experience is more meaningful.
How to Ask Good Questions
Be clear
Plan ahead
Be specific but not overly so
Have an idea of what the answer should be
be willing to accept a broad range of responses
Frame the question
Avoid over using low level cognitive questions
Ask questions that require reasoning in addition to opinion.
Ask follow up questions
Create clarity:
"Can you explain more about this situation?"
Construct better working relations:
"How have classes been going?"
Help people think analytically and critically:
"What are the consequences of this?"
Inspire people to reflect and see things in fresh, unpredictable ways:
"Why did this work?"
Encourage breakthrough thinking:
"Can that be done in any other way?"
Challenge assumptions:
"What do you think you will lose if you started with a different initial premise?"
Create ownership of solutions:
"Based on what you've read so far/what we've discussed, what do you think would be a better decision?"
Most Effective Question Types
Using Writing
Question Creation
Journal Keeping (online too)
Online Discussion Boards
Five Minute Essay
Progressive Essay
Written Debate
Writing Workshops
Full transcript