Discussions can be an effective active learning technique to help students think more critically about the information being presented and learn to voice their own opinions. However, leading a productive discussion can present problems for the instructor. The links below offer ideas for all aspects of facilitating discussions from the planning stages through asking good questions, monitoring responses, dealing with problems, and wrapping it up.


General Resources

Frequently Asked Questions about Discussion, Joan Mittendorf and Alan Kalish (Indiana University. Bloomington, Campus Instructional Consulting).
Answers to eight FAQs about facilitating effective discussions.

Effective Classroom Discussions by William E. Cashin, Emeritus professor, Kansas State University (IDEA Paper #49, 2011).
This paper is an update of IDEA paper #15, “Improving Discussions” (Cashin & McKnight, 1986).  Includes discussion of research and articles from the 1990s onward. Offers suggestions on the teacher’s role in fostering participation and the student’s role.

"Encouraging Student Participation in Discussion," Barbara Gross Davis (University of California, Berkeley). From Tools for Teaching, Jossey-Bass, 1993.
Describes numerous strategies for getting students to participate in discussions, with a comfortable and secure classroom environment as the primary key to student involvement.

Discussion Guidelines (University of Michigan, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching).
The following site contains links to guidelines the CRLT developed to help instructors facilitate classroom discussions dealing with several topics and issues of current interest.

Facilitating-Effective-Discussions Wiki.
Developed by MSU Lilly Seminar facilitators Janine Certo, Assistant Professor, Teacher Education, College of Education, MSU; Christina Schwarz, Associate Professor, Teacher Education, College of Education, MSU; Anne-Lise Halvorsen, Assistant Professor, Teacher Education, College of Education, and session participants, this wiki provides information on how to prepare for, facilitate, and assess classroom discussions in a variety of class s ettings and across disciplines. Links to many sites on effective discussions.

See also Asking and Answering Questions on this website.

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