7 Ways to Increase Effective Classroom Discussions
"A good discussion increases the dimensions of everyone who takes part." - Randolph Bourne
How active were you during the classroom discussions in school? Here the answer might vary from person to person, depending on how confident you felt in putting forward your thoughts. Whereas some of you might have struggled to get the right words to match your thoughts, others would have been spontaneous while participating in discussions.
Classroom discussion is an effective tool that enables students and teachers to exchange thoughts. Discussions develop the skill to understand better and think precisely about each topic. It is an efficient practice where the whole class can communicate and interact and this way increase their knowledge and add value to peer to peer learning.
Why are classroom discussions important?
As brought out by Fernando Flores “Our best comes out when we have honest discussions”. Discussions build a learning community and bring out the best thinking. Here are some of the reasons why classroom discussions are important factors in learning:
● It helps students improve their listening, thinking and speaking skills
A discussion is a two-way process where one listens to what the other person is saying. It enables students to reason out and come up with valid points and present their views in both formal and informal situations.
● It helps students to process information rather than just receive it
Receiving a lecture from a teacher might sometimes get boring for the students but a healthy discussion in the class keeps the students attentive and helps them to process the topic in their mind and strengthens students' understanding of concepts.
● It enhances the skills of leading discussions
If a student answers the question incorrectly, the facilitator/ teacher can guide them to lead the discussion in the correct direction.
These are a few practices to increase effective classroom discussions
Before the discussion starts the teacher/ facilitator should know what the learning outcome from the discussion must be. Understanding the learning outcomes makes it easy for the teacher to decide what mode of discussion is required for a particular topic. Also, the teacher must be aware of the following practices to ensure the discussion leads to fruitful outcomes.
● Appreciating student ideas: It is very common for students to be afraid of their teachers and so they do not present their views out of this fear. It is the teacher’s responsibility to ensure every student participates even if the answer is incorrect. Also appreciating every tiny bit of a student’s efforts builds confidence in students to perform better in the classroom and eventually they will come up with new and different ideas as they make progress.
● Provide feedback: You can provide feedback by asking students relevant questions related to the topic as this increases the students’ ability to think and reason out the answer.
● Give students time: The pace at which students understand differs. The teacher/ facilitator should give sufficient time to those students who require more time, and who require a nudge from the teacher.
● Give relevant examples: Sometimes the students might not understand the topic or might not be able to come up with the answers that you are looking for. To avoid this, give examples or evidential support, so students can reach the answer. This gives the students a structure on which to base their ideas.
● Limit corrections: Be careful when correcting the students as too many differing corrections might confuse the students or make them nervous so and lose interest. Focus your corrections on one issue.
Example: if you are correcting pronunciation, focus on that only. Do not correct grammar, pronunciation and content all at the same time.
● Failure is not important: Let your students know that it is completely okay to not do well in a discussion or even to completely fail. Do not be critical of your students if they make mistakes, instead encourage them to try and work around their mistakes so they do better the next time.
● Grouping the students according to their needs: Arranging the students in groups based on their needs might be a difficult task, but the teacher has to be smart in doing that to get the best from the students.
Example: It is a good idea to initially group all the talkative and dominating students in one group and group all the quiet ones in one group, this ensures that the quiet ones get engaged in the discussion without any fear. Later, you can always mix up the groups.
Along with the above-mentioned points, it is very important to have a discussion or debrief session with the students, this helps them to reflect on their performance and come up with enhanced participation in the next session.
While using these techniques we have seen children participate actively during every discussion in the classroom, this has not only brought focus but they have also shown keen interest in other new aspects and forms of learning. Many kids who initially struggled with lack of confidence now come up with great ideas. Ivan Welton Fitzwater mentions that “The future of the world is in my classroom today.” This holds true for every teacher as they are the ones who can build a stable foundation for a student’s life, for a better tomorrow.