Supporting Effective In-Class Discussions

As the author of Effective Ways to Structure Discussion points out, class discussions (whether online or in person) are most effective if they are structured by a “protocol that guides the interaction.” To support students in having effective face-to-face discussions, the author recommends three techniques.

  1. Starter and Wrapper. In order to fully and effectively participate, students need to understand the purpose of a discussion. The author recommends framing class discussions by kicking things off a with a question or comment and then wrapping up with some final analysis and comments. In addition, the author suggests that students can be the ones assigned to provide these starters and wrappers.
  2. Save the Last Word for Me. This discussion strategy involves building discussions around quotes drawn from course readings that students didn’t fully understand, which they then take turns submitting. The rest of the class offers their analysis, interpretation, and response to that day’s quote, enabling all students to develop and refine their understanding of that topic.
  3. Time for Reflection. To prevent instructors from unwittingly dominating in-class discussions, the author suggests incorporating time for students to reflect. Offering this quiet time after class discussions allows students to reflect on their understanding of that day’s topics and develop questions and talking points for future discussions.