Discussion techniques: 5 analysis and critical thinking lecture supplements

Discussion Techniques: 5 Analysis and Critical Thinking Lecture Supplements

Discussion techniques help enrich lectures and apply concepts critically. Engaging learners in analysis and critical thinking with these ideas encourages them to retain information. These five techniques are quick and easy to use alongside lectures, allowing learners to exercise core competencies in that context. 

Difficulty: 4/5




Variable, but at least 5 and not more than 50.

Core Competency Connection

Sketch of a beaver on a brown gradient background
Sketch of three wolves on a grey gradient background
Sketch of a dragonfly on a green gradient background





The Process

1. Categorize

Choose a category of information that is essential for learners to understand. Learners then brainstorm the principles of that category—this could be in relation to questions, topics, or artifacts. 

2. Vote with Your Feet

After presentation of a controversial topic or case, learners are assigned to one side of the room based on their given position on the issue. Learners then alternate stating their positions and responding to their opponents. Learners, not the teacher, select who on the other side speaks next. Learners may vote with their feet by crossing to the other side if they see value in the opposing argument. 

3. Believers and Skeptics 

Learners are assigned to be “believers” and read a text empathetically, making a conscious effort to understand the author’s perspective and values and listing arguments to support the author’s views. Learners are then assigned to be “skeptics” and reread the text looking for weaknesses and listing objections. 

4. Academic Debate 

Learner partners review material on a controversial topic and develop arguments to support their assigned position. Pairs then split up and move around the room, talking to other learners on the same side to strengthen their position. In groups of four, pairs present their arguments, then switch sides and argue the opposite side. Then they work together to come to a consensus position. 

5. Investigative Teams and Roles

Break learners into teams with several roles eachsummarizer, connector, proponent, example giver, questioner, criticand have each team discuss a topic. Each group member should stay within their role and present back to the entire class on their discussion topic. 


Selections from Barkley, Elizabeth. (2010)Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. Jossey-Bass. Compiled by Joe Bandy, CFT Assistant Director. 

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