Helpful Hints for leading classroom discussion:
1. Classroom discussion must be planned in advance
2. Put discussion topics on handouts or project them for the class.
3. Know what you want the students to get out of the discussion.
4. Give the class time to write on the issue before the discussion.
5. You must be able to build verbally on the student’s answers to facilitate class discussion.
6. Let your silence build after you ask a question.
Kinds of Questions you can ask for group discussion:
1. Questions that ask for evidence.
2. Questions that ask for clarification.
3. Hypothetical questions (how changing circumstances my change the outcome).
4. Cause and effect questions.
5. Open questions (ex. Why do you think? How? Is there any connection to others opinions?)
(1-5 taken from Discussion as a Way of Teaching, Stephen Brookfield and Stephen Preskill, qtd. Glenn.)
Strategies for Designing Critical Thinking Tasks for Small Groups
1. Tasks should link concepts in your course with the student’s personal experiences and knowledge.
2. Students can teach course concepts to a new learner.
3. Students can be given a problem for which they must propose and justify an answer.
4. Using the frame strategy, students use a mapping sentence given by the instructor, and then create content topic sentences to support a short essay.
5. Students brainstorm possible questions and then refine their list to a couple questions and explain why those questions are good.
6. Students imagine they believe in the truth of a statement and argue in its favor and then they imagine that they doubt the statement and argue against it.
7. Students find facts and other data to support a premise or idea.
8. Groups can be assigned roles from a fictional case and they develop arguments based on the perspective of their roles and argue their case with other groups.
9. Using a grade norming strategy, students can evaluate their own essays or other essays based on either their instructors rubric or a system of their own devising.
10. Students can read and respond to classmate’s works-in-progress.
(Bean, 121-132, and 151-159)
11. Students practice their interviewing skills by interviewing each other and then discussing the pros and cons of the interview (Nick Vagnoni).
Bean, John C. Engaging Ideas. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2001.
Glenn, Cheryl, and Melissa A. Goldthwaite. The St. Martin’s Guide to Teaching Writing. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008.