Discussion in the College Classroom


I have started to read Jay R. Howard’s Discussion in the College Classroom based on a recommendation from a speaker at our school. The second chapter is where the serious content and suggestions begin. The chapter focuses on moving students from civil attention- being polite, but not necessarily more than that- to active participation. Like many discussions of this type veteran practitioners are already doing much of it so I am just going to list the things I found interesting. Not all of them are central to the theme. This is not a full summary of the chapter.

  1. He recommends card stock for name tags if you use that to help you learn names. This is kind of an obvious improvement on my folded paper. I’ll probably invest in some for future semesters.
  2. There is a reminder to ask “How?” rather than “What?” and to give students time to reflect if you want more participants. I do this, but it is good to be reminded of from time to time.
  3. He gave a witty response to the “student as customer” trope. He says if the student is a customer then the teacher is a physical trainer. Would a customer accept a physical trainer that does not make them work hard?
  4. In think-pair-share activities maybe ask folks if their partner said something worthwhile. Then the first volunteer can start the discussion just by picking someone else. You don’t pick on the person who has to give the substantial information. And the person who does give the information is slightly lauded before speaking. This was the most useful idea from the chapter for me.

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