Why Teachers Need to Use Discussion in the Classroom

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Unit I Introduction

The introductory lesson focuses on why discussion is so crucial within the classroom. It is through discussion that students often gain interest in the material, correct their misconceptions and analyze information critically. This lesson will show why just lecturing or just using activities is not enough. Effective discussion must be used for students to achieve mastery understanding. This lesson come first because in order to effectively learn to use classroom discussion, a teacher must first fully and explicitly believe in and comprehend the benefits of discussion. The best motivation to learn is to know that there exists a definitive benefit.

Unit 1 Objectives

(1) In a social studies classroom, the student (classroom teacher) will be able to list five or more positive consequences of utilizing effective classroom discussion.

(2) In a social studies classroom, the student (classroom teacher) will be able to synthesize the characteristics that student's display when there does not exist a climate of discussion.

Mini-Lecture

It is essential that teachers open up an effective dialogue in their classroom for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the most important reason is that classroom discussion peaks student interest. If a teacher is simply lecturing their students it is impossible for teenagers (or anyone really) to maintain engaged with the material for forty minutes. If students are engaged with the material, then they are much more likely to be interested in it which will help them with their learning of the content. In fact, Brualdi states that the greatest benefit of classroom discussion is the motivation it creates amongst students.[1]. A teacher can provide a great lesson and make all the points very clear and draw all the connections, but the students who are half listening and half engaged will only learn a small portion of the material.

In order to increase the amount and quality of material that students are able to retain in social studies then classroom discussion must be utilized. If a teacher simply tells the students the connection, they may or may not see it. However, if the students analyze the information and come to their own conclusion then they will definitely remember the material. Also, the students will have activated higher order learning abilities since they had to compare or analyze themselves. In a safe environment, students will almost always have something to say. Brookfield explains that if a student has something to say, albeit a question, answer or even just a comment, it means their brain is actively engaged with the material and the student is processing it on numerous levels.[2] Classroom discussion has a vast array of benefits and another one is checking for comprehension.

The age old quesiton, of "any questions?" has never really worked. Almost never does a student put their hand up and admitt that they are confused. Through classroom discussion students are constantly being put through formative assessment. This is a very valuable tool because the early misconceptions can be caught and cleared up the better. Also, a student who is incorrect about something might realize what the right fact is by listening and being engaged with the discussion.

Another great benefit of classroom discussion is the fact that students gain a sense of empowerment as a result of it. The simple idea that someone cares what the students think and actually wants to hear their opinion, backed up by facts of course, gives students a sense of pride and a boost in their self-esteem. Too often our society overlooks the youths and does not give them a chance to voice their opinions and their reasoning behind it. The University of Oregon claims that classroom discussion is one of the best ways to empower students and that greatly helps them in their education.[3]

Activities

1)Please go to the following discussion page and post your opinion about classroom discussions and read and discuss with fellow teachers about the positives and negatives of social studies discussion. Often the best way to improve one's knowledge of the teaching profession is simply to talk with other teachers and share one another's experiences. Try to list five or more positives that you have learned about classroom discussion.Why Use Discussion-SS

2) This activity will leave the theoretical realm and go the practical realm as far as the effectiveness of classroom discussion. This activity will require you to use your classes as guinea pigs. First, you will have to draw up a five question short answer quiz about topics that you will discuss in class on a specific day. Second, randomly select two classes for your discussion groups and two for purely lecture groups (please try to avoid using honors classes unless you have two of them).

Now you will teach the same material to all four classes. However, your two classes in the lecture group will not have the opportunity to ask questions, comment, and the teacher will not pose any questions for the class. The two discussion classes should have many quesitons posed to them, they should be encouraged to comment and ask questions. This is not a very formal experiment but it should clearly show the intended results. At the end of each class, distribute your five question short answer quiz about the material for the day. Average the scores out for the two classes with discussion and the two classes without and see how effective a classroom discussion can be with increasing student knowledge.

Feel free to report your findings in the discussion listed for activity one. Also, if this experiment is run for a week instead of one day it will provide much more accurate results.

3) For further reading on this topic, please see the three referenced articles found in the mini-lecture section on this page.

Conclusion

This first unit allowed everyone to analyze professional sources, read a brief mini-lecture and see in their own classroom the many benefits of effective classroom discussion. Discussion fosters student growth and understanding and engages students with the material which keeps them interested and focused during the class period. For this unit, the style of questioning and how to respond and facilitate discussion was left alone because the objective was to see the pure benefits of just opening up any form of discussion in the social studies classroom. Moving into unit two we will now examine the shortcomings of the traditional questioning method of Initiate-Response-Evaluate so later on one will be able to improve their classroom discussion and enjoy even more benefits.


Go on to Unit 2 Why the IRE Model of Questioning is Ineffective

Return to Effective Social Studies Classroom Discussion