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How do I encourage participation/ facilitate discussion?

We've all been there. You've read the text over and over, you know the material backwards and forwards, you're primed for a rigorous discussion of the finer points, and when you ask your students for their opinions, you find yourself staring at row after row of blank faces. Suddenly you find yourself on the wrong side of a Ferris Bueller moment, "Anyone? Anyone?" Or maybe you've got them talking, at least two or three of them, while everyone else rolls their eyes or tunes out. Or they're all talking, but the conversation is misdirected, off topic or inflammatory and out of control. This section can help you create a classroom where participation is frequent, equitable and productive.


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Participation

Responding Effectively to Student Questions
"This is the second of a two-part "Teach Talk" devoted to the craft of asking and answering questions in the classroom" (Vol. VIII, No. 2, January/February 1996).

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Community guidelines

Affirmation of Community Standards
University of Oregon Affirmation of Community Standards: To set forth and affirm a clear and cogent statement of common community standards.

The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching
The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) developed the following guidelines to help instructors facilitate classroom discussions about various topics and issues.

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Techniques and strategies

Leading Effective Discussions
Classes tend to develop a collective personality ("I have a really quiet group this term", "I've never had such a talkative bunch", "Trying to have a discussion is like pulling teeth with this group.") For this reason, it's a good idea to try different techniques and strategies to keep lively discussions going.

Feedback discussions
This technique emphasizes the importance of group roles and processes in a discussion and gives students more responsibility for participating in and sharing facilitation responsibilities in a dialogue with their peers.

What are some good ways to facilitate a discussion? This section of the TEP site addresses ways to set up a class environment that promotes productive discussions.

How do I bring out shy students? This TEP page offers various recommendations for bringing shy students into a discussion

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Preparing for discussion

Literature Circles Resource Center
While this site is intended for lower grades, there are some practical and useful ideas that might be adapted for your classes.

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Reading response

Motivating Students is from Univeresity of   Wisconsin Whtewater's Learn Center and includes "Strategies, Ideas, and Recommendations from the faculty Development Literature," including a section on "Motivating Students to Do the Reading."