Using Discussion for Learning

Last month (where has the time gone?) we had a teaching conversation about using “discussion” as a technique in teaching. There are so many instructors using discussions in various ways, with a range of results that we felt it was valuable to once again revisit this teaching technique and unpack some of what we are currently trying to do in the FHS classrooms.

What are instructors currently doing with “discussion”?

People are using discussion in the classroom and other contexts such as student orientations to:

i) engage students and promote deeper understanding of the readings, ii) examine complex topics through sharing and exchange of ideas, share perspectives; (iii) problem solve; (iv) build social environments that support students in getting to know each other and to promote connections; (v) share future plans and experiences of learning in FHS.

Some of the challenges expressed include: i) getting discussion started when people don’t know each other; (ii) having enough time (weeks) for a new group to gel and this can pose challenges if they are required to produce earlier in the term; (iii) dealing with large classes since the size of the group has an impact on the quality of discussion; (iv) marking discussions. One has to be clear on the intentions and indicators of a good discussion and students need to know what this looks like.

Tips for Improving Discussions:

Summary of the Design Considerations:

Incorporating “discussion” is a great technique for building on the experiences of students, assisting students to get together to work things out and to build practical skills such as facilitation and being part of a group however, there are design considerations for all instructors and staff using discussion in the classroom to promote “engagement” and learning. Some of the considerations we explored are: