Discussions offer students the opportunity to articulate their knowledge and ideas, to hear a variety of viewpoints and perspectives, to develop their position related to a topic and learn to evaluate their own and others’ positions.
Why Use Discussions?
Using discussions in class:
- Allow an instructor to assess student learning through performance.
- Make learning active as students work through complicated ideas and concepts collaboratively.
- Help build community.
- Allow students to learn about and evaluate different positions and receive feedback on their own.
- Enable students to participate as co-constructors of knowledge.
- Provide opportunities to develop conventions of discourse within a discipline.
- Expose students to complexity and ambiguity in a supportive environment.
- Allow students to synthesize and integrate new knowledge.
- Develop students’ ability to articulate ideas and meanings clearly.
Getting Started with Discussions
- Involve students in a discussion on the first day and explain the value of discussion to your course.
- Communicate your expectations for participation. If it is graded, explain clearly how you will do this by using a rubric.
- Use icebreakers to increase students' comfort level with each other.
- Consider how you will structure different sized discussion groups.
- Clarify the difference between debates and discussions to students. Discourage the need to reach a consensus and encourage students to explore possibilities and present evidence to support their points.