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Center for Teaching Excellence

  • College Classroom Debate

Manage Classroom Discussion

Class discussion can result in students engaged with course content and with each other. Discussion can encourage deeper thinking and application beyond content delivery. The following tips will help you to prompt and manage class discussion.

Arrange the classroom intentionally such that students may sit at a table or at desks or chairs in a circle. This indicates that you want the whole group to be involved.

Make sure students have the information necessary for the discussion either from prior readings or assignments. Students will be more likely to participate and even to lead.

  • Begin with material the students are comfortable with. They may use general experience or basic subject content to answer.
  • Once students are warmed up, ask questions requiring students to explain relationships among pieces of information or to form general concepts.
  • Let the discussion progress by asking questions that require application of concepts.
  • Redirect a follow-up question to students to clarify, add depth or to elicit a more correct answer. Ask students to elaborate answers rather than immediately correcting them yourself

Leave sufficient wait time after asking a question before answering it yourself, repeating it, rephrasing it, or adding further information. Resist the temptation to fill silence with your own voice. Students need time to process what they have heard and to formulate new thoughts.

Positively reinforce students for responding to questions or participating in discussion. Whenever possible, attribute specific comments to the students who made them. This shows you are engaged in the discussion and value each contribution, creating a safe environment for students to speak. 

Don’t let discussion ramble and digress too much. You must guide the discussion carefully and have a well-established format (at least in your mind) to cover the appropriate material.

Sum up the discussion whenever you shift topics and certainly at the end of the class time.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.