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).
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 absolute “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).
Ground Rules for In-Class Discussion
This single-page PDF lays out the six main ground rules when facilitating class discussions.
Keeping the Discussion Leader's Voice in Balance –
The National Teaching & Learning Forum: http://www.ntlf.com/issues/v8n3/v8n3.pdf
This issue of the National Teaching & Learning Forum newsletter provides information regarding the appropriate role of the instructor during
Teaching through Discussion
– Teaching & Learning Bulletin, Center for Instructional Development & Research, University of Washington: http://www.washington.edu/teaching/files/2012/12/Discussion.pdf
This issue of the Teaching and Learning Bulletin provides an easy to read, bulleted list of tips and suggestions for successful class discussions.
Engaging Students Using Discussions
– Teaching Commons, DePaul University:
Visit this website to view an instructional video about how to best engage students during discussion. The site also provides a list of tips and
suggestions for how to ask good questions and encourage student participation.
– Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University: http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/discussions/
This website provides information about issues that are universal to class discussions such as how to begin, questioning, and common challenges.
Effective Discussion Techniques
– Carmen Manning, Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire: http://www.uwec.edu/CETL/fellows/Effective-Discussion-Techniques.htm
This five chapter article shares information from a collective of faculty who met weekly over the course of two semesters to study and experiment
with classroom discussion strategies.
Facilitating Effective Group Discussions: Tips
– The Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching & Learning, Brown University:
This site provides information about creating inclusive classrooms, keeping discussions constructive and positive, engaging participants, and
common challenges that arise during class discussions. A list of additional resources is also provided.
Recommended Webinars and Video Tutorials
- 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
– Center for Teaching Excellence, Cornell University:
Student Self-Assessment: Thinking About The Way We Know
– Marie Eaton, http://www.evergreen.edu/washingtoncenter/docs/eaton_selfassess.pdf
(see pages 13-15)
– Center for Teaching Excellence, Cornell University
Peer Assessment and Peer Evaluation
– The Foundation Coalition,:
Teamwork VALUE Rubric –
Making the Grade: The Role of Assessment in Authentic Learning
– Marilyn M. Lombardi, Educause Learning Initiative: https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3019.pdf (See pages 8-9.)
An Introduction to Classroom Assessment Techniques
– D.M. Enerson, K.M. Plank, & R.N. Johnson, Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, Penn State University:
The Concept of Formative Assessment
– C. Boston: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED470206.pdf
Classroom Assessment Techniques. A Handbook For College Teachers
by T.A. Angelo & K.P. Cross (1993)
Teaching and Grading Group Assignments –
Assessing Group Work
– Marcia Devlin, Center for the Study of Higher Education, Australian Universities Teaching Committee:
Posted by: Dina Battaglia
Original Posting Date: 10/27/14