As a member of the University of Florida’s Graduate Student Teaching Awards Committee, I have the opportunity to observe teaching assistants in a variety of different subject areas — from entomology to criminology. An important element of many of these classes is class discussion.
I’ve found that even though the class size may be under 30 and the topic interesting, not every teaching assistant has structured their approach to discussion to get the class involved. I’m reposting Minch Minchin’s helpful specific strategies to promote effective discussion. – Julie Dodd
by Minch Minchin
Ph.D and J.D. student, University of Florida
Class discussions as a pedagogical tool are as old as teaching, itself.
Yet despite discussion’s rich and ancient lineage, some teachers may be wary of promoting discussions in their classrooms. Such fears are not without merit, as there are practical limitations to discussions as well as the potential for things simply to go wrong:
- Students may not be prepared and have nothing to say (and silence is often perceived as awkward).
- If students do all the talking, the teacher may not be able to cover the requisite material.
- Students may ask questions for which the teacher is unprepared or doesn’t know the answer to.
- The discussion may become controversial, off topic or out of hand.