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Tips on Leading an Effective Discussion

Some of you may be handling more than one group of students. It's been my experience that 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.") Even if you only have one group for the term, the techniques that worked well one day may fail the next time. For this reason, it's a good idea to try different techniques and strategies to keep lively discussions going.

Students create and follow group patterns. Without ever setting up a seating chart, you will find that students tend to take the same seats when they come to class. They will even be upset if someone happens to be in "their" seat. They also develop discussion patterns and it happens very quickly.

In every group of 25-30 students there will be about six who are not afraid to speak up in front of the whole class. They will be the ones you can count on to answer your questions and relieve the silence. However, these people can soon become the "voice" of the class if you're not careful.

The teaching strategy of asking a question and waiting for the brave souls who are
not intimidated by speaking up in front of the class is the least effective in terms of generating group involvement. And yet--it's the most common strategy used in
college classrooms.

Help all of your students develop the skill of articulating their ideas within the context of a class discussion by trying some of these approaches.

Presenting and Facilitating
This section of the TEP website addresses many former GTFs concerns about leading a discussion.