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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.
Frequently Asked Questions about Discussion, Joan Mittendorf and Alan Kalish (Indiana University. Bloomington, Campus Instructional Consulting).
Answers to eight FAQs about facilitating effective discussions.
Discussion in the Classroom (Penn State, Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence).
Provides a set of links to sites that offer guidelines and tools for effective discussions, both teacher-led and student-led.
Outlines the strengths and weaknesses of discussion and offers recommendations for improving the cognitive, affective, and participatory dimensions of classroom 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.
The Guided Discussion (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Center for Teaching and Learning).
This article presents guidelines for a teacher-led discussion with a specific learning objective: developing higher-order intellectual skills, applying these skills to course issues, and changing beliefs and attitudes. Includes examples of various types of questions for discussion.
"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.
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.