Discussion Techniques – Knowledge, Skills, Recall and Understanding

Discussion Techniques - Knowledge, Skills, Recall and Understanding

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. 

Difficulty: 3/5




Class of learners 

Core Competency Connection

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

The Process

1. Background Knowledge Probe

Present 23 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.

3. Artifacts

Use objects or images with questions to explore learner thoughts about a specific concept or question.


Select 56 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 56 learners each, distribute rules and directions, decide who goes first, and play! 

Tips & Tricks

Plan how youll conduct your discussion. Although ideally discussions are spontaneous and unpredictable, youll want to do some careful planning. You should have a clear goal/objective for the discussion, a plan for how youll prepare learners, and a general idea of how youll guide the discussion (e.g., with activities, videos, questions, etc.). 


Selections from Barkley, E. (2010)Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college facultyJossey-Bass. 

CTLI Staff

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