Preparing for discussion classes demands more time and effort than getting ready for lecture classes. Most of the work is done before class: time is spent reading, evaluating, taking notes.
Read the assignment.
Class discussions are usually about a particular topic, and there are usually assigned readings.
The first step is to read carefully the assigned material.
Make notes for discussion.
Make notes on points about which you agree or disagree. This gives ideas to talk about if you are asked for your reaction to the topic.
Noting good and poor examples will also help you react to the topic.
Note ideas, points, concepts you do not understand. Use these notes as guides to formulate questions.
Get involved in class discussion.
Get involved when someone asks a question you can answer.
You can comment on what has already been said. Explain that you found another person’s ideas interesting or useful, and describe why.
You can give information to clarify the topic or correct an error.
You can ask a thought-provoking question.
If you are reluctant to speak before the class, try to say something early in the discussion. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes.
Also, if you wait too long, someone else may ask your question or make the comment you intended to make.
Make comments brief and to the point. It is better to say too little than too much.
Always direct your comments to the entire class or your group.
Avoid getting involved in arguments with individual class members.
Organize your thoughts. Write down ideas as you think of them during the discussion so that you will have notes to refer to when you get a chance to speak.
Relate what you say with what has already been said.
Find a way to express appreciation for the insights you have gained from the discussion. Be specific about what it was that helped you understand something better.
Disagree with someone in a respectful and constructive way.
If possible, point out what is interesting or compelling in someone’s comment before explaining why and how you disagree.
Please read the following list of study skills and strategies. As you ask for help, consider each of the points below. The person who can help you the most is YOU, but it will take effort for you to be successful in your class.
1. Time Management
2. Good Study Habits
3. The Ability to Set Attainable Goals
5. Good Note Taking
6. Completion of Assignments
7. Review of Daily Notes
8. Organizational Skills
If you would like to meet with me to assist you, I am available Before School, After School, during Periods 4 and 7. Also ask to meet with me during the Academic Focus Times.
Benefits of Students Participating in Class Discussions
Participation adds interest—It’s hard to maintain students’ focus and attention when all they hear is the professor talking. It helps to hear another voice as well as an answer or another point of view.
Participation engages students—A good question can pique their interest, make them wonder why, get them to think, and motivate them to make connections with the content. This benefit is magnified when teachers play a bit with the question, when they repeat it, write it on the board, and don’t call on the first hand they see.
Participation provides the teacher feedback—When students answer or try to explain, teachers can see the extent of their understanding. They can correct (or help the students correct) what the students haven’t got right or don’t see quite clearly.
Participation provides the students feedback—When teachers ask questions or otherwise seek student input over a topic, they are letting students know something about the importance of certain ideas and information.
Participation can be used to promote preparation—If an instructor regularly calls on students and asks questions about assigned reading or what’s in their notes from the previous class session, that can get students (at least some of them) coming to class prepared.
Participation can be used to control what’s happening in class—If a student is dozing off, texting, quietly chatting, or otherwise not attending to what’s happening, that student can be called on or the student next to the offender can be asked to respond.
Participation can be used to balance who’s contributing in class and how much—In the vast majority of cases, it is the teacher who selects the participant. If teachers will wait patiently and not always select the same student, if they look expectantly to others and confirm verbally and non-verbally the value of hearing from different people, they can influence who speaks and how much. Participation even helps teachers control how much they talk.
Participation encourages dialogue among and between students—Students can be asked to comment on what another student has said. A question can be asked and students can be invited to discuss possible answers with each other before the public discussion.
Participation can be used to develop important speaking skills—In many professional contexts, people need to be able to speak up in a group. They may need to offer information, ask questions, or argue for a different solution. People don’t learn to speak up in a group by reading about how to do it—it’s one of those skills best developed with practice. And it’s one of those skills that develops better with feedback. If participation is being used to teach students this public communication skill, they will need feedback.
Participation gives students the opportunity to practice using the language of the discipline.
Participation gives students the chance to practice using a different vocabulary.