Consider the last discussion in which you participated. What was the discussion topic? Was there a clear goal or result of the discussion? Did it cause you to consider an alternative perspective you had not considered prior? Did you learn something new?
Discussion is an effective pedagogical strategy to facilitate a learning experience and assess understanding. Most importantly, discussion fosters an active learning environment that allows learners to participate in their learning process by reflecting on prior knowledge, connecting experiences to new knowledge, exploring new knowledge areas, and discovering the biases that exist in their thinking. The ultimate goal of a discussion is to foster development of problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Discussion allows a learner to process information rather than simply receive it, transforming the role of the teacher from a lecturer to that of a facilitator.
Discussion is a versatile strategy to use as it can be deployed within dyads (pairs), small groups, or large groups and structured between both peers and facilitators. If you are considering incorporating discussion into your teaching tools, take some time to plan for your discussion. Identify the topic to discuss and the goals to be achieved as a result. Consider the discussion setting, small or large group, and how much preparation time is needed by the learner. Finally, create questions that will get your learners talking. As you start developing your discussion questions, consider Bloom’s taxonomy to help construct and align with your discussion goals:
If you are looking for non-traditional techniques, consider using the following:
Brookfield S. Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2005.
Riegle R. Classifying classroom questions. Journal of Teacher Education. 1976;27(2):156-161.