Classroom Discussion and Students Participation: how to Secure Student Engagement to Increase Learning and Improve Teaching
- How to increase the number of students who take part in classroom discussions
- How to avoid the problem of dominant talkers
- How to encourage introverted students to increase their participation in classroom discussions
- Strategies to help your students recognize what they learned in any discussion
- How to use the first day of the semester to engage your students—and techniques for getting them to participate right from the start
- What common classroom practices can decrease the likelihood of a student participating in discussion?
- What strategies can you use to overcome established classroom practices and increase student participation?
- And how can you structure classroom discussions to better facilitate student learning?
What does Research Tell Us about Classroom Discussion? Jay Howard
Do College Students Participate More in Discussion in Traditional Delivery Courses or in Interactive Telecourses?
facts from sociological research:
- Gender yields mixed results
- Males participate more frequently than females.
- Males participate more frequently in courses taught by female instructors
- Other studies show the opposite
- Non traditional students participate more frequently
- Instructors’ gender also returns mixed results
- Class size as variable is important, smaller classes, more participation
- Class participation – grading
- Make the students grade themselves at the end of each class period. By making them grade themselves, they reflect and makes them more aware of their contribution.
0 – absent
1 – present but did not verbally participate
2 – verbally participated one time
3 – verbally participated more than once
4 – made an equitable contribution to discussion in terms of both quantity and quality
- The well-known and established belief that smaller classes spur more participation.
Jay Howard maintain his sociological research in 20th centuries constants: physical classroom, no technology surrounding.
In the 21st century, clickers changed the opportunity for immediate feedback. They changed also the discourse of the traditional student participation and classroom discussion:
Traditional forms and techniques for discussion and participation
Weih, T. G. (2015). Discussion Strategies for the Inclusion of ALL Students. Online Submission,
call on student
instructor’s personality issues:
Does the instructor really care of what students have to say
lecturing does not predispose to discussion
- The 10 second rule: students discuss in pairs the concept/question
- Think-Pair-Share: discussion strategy before or after lesson, similar to 10 second but longer
- Quick writes: write their thoughts and then share. Loose paper, names on top,
- Recorder-reporter. Post-lecture. The person reps the group, who is working on a specific question. Each group different question.
- K-W-L. what we know, what we want to learn, what we learned. Teacher instructs students that K = what they know, W = what they want to learn and L = what they learned. . work in small groups, but each student works on h/er chart, thus if student disagrees with rest of the group, has record. L is left blank for after the discussion.
Simich-Dudgeon, C., & National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education, W. D. (1998). Classroom Strategies for Encouraging Collaborative Discussion. Directions in Language and Education. http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED435188
Chen, W., & Looi, C. (2007). Incorporating Online Discussion in Face to Face Classroom Learning: A New Blended Learning Approach. Australasian Journal Of Educational Technology, 23(3), 307-326.
Discussions and participation in hybrid environment
Jinhong, J., & Gilson, T. A. (2014). Online Threaded Discussion: Benefits, Issues, and Strategies. Kinesiology Review, 3(4), 241-246.
For each OTD topic, the instructor randomly assigns two to four student discussion leaders who are in charge of organizing OTD for the assigned week. Each of the discussion leaders is asked to generate one or two discussion questions related to the topic based on reading assignments. The use of student discussion leaders is a strategy to encourage active participation and help develop ownership of learning. Once student discussion leaders post their questions, other students are encouraged to contribute to the discussion by answering each question, commenting on the ideas of others, or asking questions of peers or the instructor for the next two days. When the week’s discussion is complete, the student leaders and instructor work together to summarize the discussion and evaluate each student’s participation and contribution to the discussion using a scoring rubric. (p.242)
Implementation (p. 243):
- preparation : On the first day of the course, the instructor introduces topics, how-tos, expectations, grading procedures, and required reading assignments for OTD, and organizes discussion leaders for each online discussion (2–4 leaders for each)
- Opening and Responding: Posted discussion questions become open at the time of the class and students who are not the leaders are required to post at least one response per question within 48 hrs. During this time, the leaders facilitate discussion by responding to comments, raising questions, or redirecting discussion to encourage active participation and ensure the discussion is on track
- Summary and Assessment: The job of the leader is to moderate, summarize discussion threads, and assess them at the end of the discussion. When the week’s discussion is complete, the leaders meet with the instructor to debrief and evaluate each student’s participation and contribution to the discussion using a scoring rubric given by the instructor. After the meeting, each leader posts his or her summary of the discussion to BBCMS and reports at the next in-person class.
Discussions and participation in online environment
Darabi, A., Liang, X., Suryavanshi, R., & Yurekli, H. (2013). Effectiveness of Online Discussion Strategies: A Meta-Analysis. American Journal Of Distance Education, 27(4), 228-241. doi:10.1080/08923647.2013.837651
Lin, P., Hou, H., Wang, S., & Chang, K. (2013). Analyzing knowledge dimensions and cognitive process of a project-based online discussion instructional activity using Facebook in an adult and continuing education course. Computers & Education, 60(1), 110-121. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.07.017
- 111 results suggest that using Facebook is not necessarily harmful to a student’s learning performance. Adequate learning activity design and pedagogical goal setting could, in fact, exploit the social and information-sharing function of Facebook, thereby supporting academic learning (Gray et al., 2010). this study seeks to advance the understanding of adult learners’ behaviors in online project discussions using Facebook.
In the process of project-based learning, learners must utilize different kinds of knowledge (e.g., discrete declarative knowledge and dynamic procedural knowledge) (Lou, 2004). Meanwhile, students can develop higher level of cognitive skills for a specific domain as well as the ability to apply adequate knowledge to a specific domain or context during PBL (Barron et al., 1998; Blumenfeld et al., 1991).
Select driving questions or controversial issues as project topics: Blumenfeld et al. (1991) noted that driving questions could facilitate students to explore the project topic. In the exploration process, students must first collect information and propose diverse viewpoints on the project topics. They could subsequently filter out and reach consensus during online discussions. This process involves diverse and converging phases that can move students toward higher-order thinking (Jorczak & Bart, 2009).
- Allow ample time for online discussion: Results of this study indicated that student online discussions lacked diversity in both knowledge and cognitive process dimensions. One possible reason could be that the allotted time for online discussions was not sufficient. Considering the multiple roles that adult learners play in family and/or work, they may not be able to respond to the discussions in a timely manner. Therefore, allowing more time for students to discuss may provide opportunities for students to demonstrate more diverse and deeper thinking (Scherling, 2011).
- Provide a structured rubric for online discussions: Well-designed discussion guidelines and evaluation criteria, i.e., posting protocols or rubric for grading, could serve as scaffolds for student online discussions, which may, subsequently, lead to more meaningful learning (Gilbert & Dabbagh, 2005). Following that, more diverse type of knowledge and levels of cognitive process could be expected to be shown.
- Pay attention to the effects that individual differences may exert on the learner’s interactions: Our results showed that, in the context of online discussions, females and older learners are more likely to have off-topic discussions than their male and/or younger counterparts. These findings are in accord with previous research that suggested effects of individual differences on learning as well as on the use of SNSs (Glynn et al., 2012; Muscanell & Guadagno, 2012; Price, 2006; Yukselturk & Bulut, 2009). Therefore, considering the potential effects that gender and age may exert on online discussions, instructors are advised to consider individual differences when grouping students for online discussions, as a balanced group composition of evenly distributed age and gender could be a better approach than a skewed distribution of individuals.
social interaction, which was considered as irrelevant discussion, may also leading to meaningful thinking and echoes the viewpoints from previous studies, which suggest social interaction can be a critical element in the CSCL environment (Abedin et al., 2011a, 2011b).
Incorporating online discussion in face to face classroom learning: A new blended learning approach
This paper discusses an innovative blended learning strategy which incorporates online discussion in both in-class face to face, and off-classroom settings. Online discussion in a face to face class is compared with its two counterparts, off-class online discussion as well as in-class, face to face oral discussion, to examine the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed strategy. By integrating online discussion into the flow of the classroom, learners are given dedicated time to foster a habit of critical thinking, reflection and articulating these online, which can subsequently seed further in-class oral discussions, and off-class online discussions. It is found that in-class, online discussion can provide a wider spectrum of discussion perspectives, equalise participation in discussion, and promote cognitive thinking skills and in depth information processing. However, the lack of face to face interactions and the need for sufficient time to do online postings pose challenges in implementing online discussion for face to face classroom learning.
PDF file available
More on classroom discussions in this IMS blog: