Small Group and Class Discussion

​​​​Overview

Small group discussions can take many forms such as buzz groups (each group member participates within their small group before discussing with the entire class), teams (i.e., team-based learning), and panel discussion (a discussion among group members presented in front of the class, followed by participation from fellow classmates who first served as the audience).

Small group or class discussion provides an opportunity for members of the learning community to openly exchange ideas, their experiences, and knowledge. Before engaging in any form of discussion, it is important to set the “ground rules” for the discussion (see http://www.uvm.edu/~pass/tignor/filmseries_files/groundrules.pdf).

Practical Applications

With any type of discussion, it is important for students to feel they are in a “safe space” to speak openly without judgment or retribution. Students also benefit from knowing the instructor’s expectations for the discussion, the specific topic of discussion, and receiving positive feedback for their contributions to the discussion.

Discussion works best when there is no clear and absolut​e “correct” answer; therefore open ended questions that do not result in a yes/no answer are recommended. It is important not to “panic” if there is silence. It is advised to acknowledge the silence, inquire about reasons for the silence, and based on the answers received, either continue with the discussion or move forward with a new activity (at least for the moment).

Recommended Resources

Recommended Webinars and Video Tutorials

Related Texts

  • ​Brookfield, S. D. & Preskill, S. (2005). Discussion as a way of teaching: Tools and techniques for democratic classrooms (2nd Ed). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.​

Related Evaluation and Assessment Resources




Posted by: Dina Battaglia

Original Posting Date: 10/27/14

Updated: 4/1/15​​