Discussions are an effective and important teaching technique, especially with adult learners.

A discussion is 

the action or process of talking about something in order to reach a decision or to exchange ideas” (Oxford Languages and Google).

Why Use Discussion?

  • Engage learners as “co-constructors of knowledge”
  • Share thinking and broaden conversation
  • Address ideas and concepts collaboratively
  • Make learning active
  • Build community

Use Discussion When You Want Learners to

  • Develop awareness and understanding of issues
  • Keep an open mind when exploring topics
  • Think critically, problem solve
  • Apply knowledge to new situations
  • Actively listen and respond to others
  • Examine and share perspectives and attitudes, receive feedback on their own
  • Integrate new knowledge into their own perspectives

How to Engage Learners in Discussion

  • Plan ahead for discussion, share purpose and expectations
  • Involve students in discussion on the first day
  • Ask an open-ended or focus question to get discussion started
  • Give learners a chance to think
  • Provide opportunities for discussion periodically during class
  • Set expectations of inclusion, respectful consideration of all perspectives
  • Set tone, establish guidelines for discussion, model active listening
  • Use icebreakers to increase comfort level
  • Use a visual to help direct discussion (slide, chart, map, picture, …)
  • Use breakout groups for discussion if the class is large
  • Debrief, summarize at close of discussion
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