Faculty Development & Learning Assessment

Learning & Teaching Topics

Facilitating Effective In-Class Discussions

Why Use Discussion Teaching?

Challenges of Discussions:

How to Effectively Facilitate a Discussion:

(An instructor’s role should be to facilitate, not lead, a class discussion.)

Before class:

During class:

  1. Call the class to order.
  2. Set up the room so that all participants’ chairs (including the instructor’s) are in a circle, preferably in front of tables, desks, or other barriers.
  3. Clarify the goals of the discussion.
  4. Discuss guidelines for discussion (such as courtesy, active listening, staying on subject, supporting statements, speaking loudly and clearly) and consider asking students to agree upon-student-generated groundrules.
  5. Create an expectation of participation and clarify participation grades in relation to discussions.
  6. Beginning a discussion in pairs is a good way to increase students’ comfort level with participation.
  7. Consider cold-calling, as long as you provide to students a thoughtful rationale for its use.

At the end of the discussion:

Behaviors of Effective Facilitators:

How to ask questions:

Dealing with students who speak excessively:

Language of Discussion:

Topic References

Cashin, W.E. & McKnight, P.C. (1986). Improving Discussions. Retrieved July 1, 2009, from The Idea Center Web site: http://www.theideacenter.org/sites/default/files/Idea_Paper_15.pdf

University of Michigan. (n.d.). Teaching Strategies: Discussions. Retrieved July 1, 2009, from CRLT Web site: http://www.crlt.umich.edu/tstrategies/tsd.php

University of Michigan. (n.d.). Teaching Strategies: Handling Controversial Topics in Discussion. Retrieved July 1, 2009, from CRLT Web site: http://www.crlt.umich.edu/tstrategies/tshctd.php

University of Washington. (n.d.). Discussion. Retrieved July 1, 2009, from Center for Instructional Development and Research Web site: http://depts.washington.edu/cidrweb/resources/discussiontools.html

Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. (n.d.). Discussions. Retrieved July 1, 2009, from CFT Web site: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/cft/resources/teaching_resources/activities/discussions.htm

HSU Connection

Two-thirds of HSU students meet the definition of “Millennials,” a group that learns particularly well through active learning methods and peer interaction. Discussion helps this majority group of students comprehend and interact with course material.