Research and Papers

49 - Effective Classroom Discussions

IDEA Papers | William E. Cashin, Professor Emeritus, Kansas State University

What is a discussion? No one seems to define it.  Lowman (1995, p. 159) suggested: “(A) useful classroom discussion...consists of student comments separated by frequent probes and clarifications by the teacher that facilitate involvement and development of thinking by the whole group.” In this paper, discussion is defined as twoway, spoken communication between the teacher and the students, and more importantly, among the students themselves.

This paper primarily addresses discussion in small classes that meet one or more times a week, or in smaller classes that meet one or more times during the week as part of a course consisting of one or more large lectures each week.  Discussions can take the form of recitation, dialogue, and guided or open exchanges. However, many of the suggestions in this paper should also be useful for shorter discussion sessions as part of a lecture class, since discussions are an effective way to get students to actively process what they learn in lectures (Lowman, 1995, p. 161).

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