Discussions are an important part of learning in all disciplines because they help learners process information rather than simply receive it. Lectures mixed with discussions can help maintain learners‘ focus. As they discuss their answers, learners get different perspectives on the topic. Good questions and answers can get learners to think deeply and make connections.
Class of learners
Core Competency Connection
1. Background Knowledge Probe
Present 2–3 open-ended questions that probe existing understanding. Answers may simply be collected or shared to begin dialogue about misunderstandings.
2. Reading Notes
Assign learners words, phrases, or concepts to focus their reading and note taking, possibly with worksheets. Notes can be collected or be the basis of discussion with peers.
Use objects or images with questions to explore learner thoughts about a specific concept or question.
Select 5–6 different passages from a text and put them on multiple slips of paper in a container. Each learner draws a slip of paper, takes a few minutes to think about what they want to say in response to their passage, and then each quote can be discussed in turn.
5. Team Jeopardy
Play Jeopardy with learners by creating a set of topical categories related to the subject matter and questions/answers of varying difficulty that can be put into a table grid. Divide the class into teams of 5–6 learners each, distribute rules and directions, decide who goes first, and play!
Plan how you’ll conduct your discussion. Although ideally discussions are spontaneous and unpredictable, you’ll want to do some careful planning. You should have a clear goal/objective for the discussion, a plan for how you’ll prepare learners, and a general idea of how you’ll guide the discussion (e.g., with activities, videos, questions, etc.).
Selections from Barkley, E. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. Jossey-Bass.