Ideas for educators to facilitate effective class discussions

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“A good discussion increases the dimensions of everyone who takes part” 

                                                                                                          – Randolph Bourne

Class discussions have tremendous potential for enhancing the overall knowledge framework of the students and enabling better student academic performance. It also provides educators the opportunity to incorporate a variety of teaching strategies based on the requirements of the class. Any form of social learning which emphasizes on knowledge gain through peer-to-peer interaction provides a greater flexibility for the educators and the students as well. By focusing towards facilitating rich and effective classroom discussion, educators may help their students to enrich their knowledge base, and make learning more fun and engaging for them. 

We live in a digital age. The field of education is no exception. Every day we see that more and more students shift towards online education via various tools like video chat. Educational institutions have increasingly put more focus on making themselves suitable for functioning effectively in this digital age by incorporating modern systems such as Video API, smart classes and likewise. Even so, effective student learning largely depends on the teaching methods employed by the teachers. Developing a classroom culture which encourages students to participate in and contribute to rich and meaningful class discussions, can be a game changer in terms of curating a highly engaging learning environment and achieving high student learning outcomes. However, it would be wise to follow some guidelines as an attempt to cultivate a meaningful class discussion, without proper planning, can quite evidently lead to counterproductive outcomes. Here are a few tips which an educator should follow in order to stimulate meaningful class discussions which enhance students’ knowledge whilst keeping monotony at bay. So, without further ado, let us begin….

Proper Structure-

In contrast to instruction-based teaching, a class discussion is quite spontaneous and its flow is difficult to control. Therefore, educators must prepare a proper structure for having that extra bit of control over the proceedings. For one, they should set clear expectations both for themselves and the students in terms of the topics to discuss and the learning objectives. Moreover, they should ask some essence-based questions at the start of class discussion which the students are expected to have the answers to, by the end of the discussion. Furthermore, a proper structure should also include individual provisions for ensuring adequate individual participation and accountability through means of grading the students individually or in small groups. 

Directing the discussion-

To gain some semblance of control and make the discussion more fruitful, educators must not shy away from participating themselves and adding points in between the class discussion as they deem appropriate. This helps in keeping the discussion on track and also helps the fellow students at times when a few of their classmates try to monopolize the discussion. Once the proper functioning of the discussion groups is ensured, the educators can ask the students to carry it forward in the after-class hours as well.

Equitable participation-

During a class discussion, it is highly likely that a group of students may be marginalized and subdued by their counterparts. Educators should be wary about such situations which might jeopardize an effective class discussion which benefits all the students, and try to address them ASAP. Developing an all-inclusive classroom environment should be a priority for educators in order to encourage equitable student participation in class discussions as well as other group activities. 

Encourage quieter students-

Some students are naturally, a bit reserved and less outspoken than others. Educators should come up with strategies to ensure that they are covered. You can try giving such students an extra minute or so to collect their thoughts and formulate and voice their answers in front of the class. Such students can also be invited to work in a think-pair-share, where they formulate their answers and discuss it with a partner before sharing it with the rest of the class. Additionally, educators can share the worksheets with the students well in advance, providing them with key ideas to be discussed in the next class discussion, and asking them to clear their concepts about the same and come to class prepared. This will help them in being more assured and thus encourage them to shed their inhibitions and participate more freely in the class discussions.

A healthy discussion is the essence of all the good that goes on around the world. It is an important pillar of democracy, the most liberating form of governance. Encouraging healthy class discussions not only helps the students to learn in a better manner, but it prepares them to become a fully-functioning and an upstanding citizen of our democratic country as well.

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