discussion tips

Facilitating Discussions that Inspire Deeper Thinking

Class discussions certainly create a setting that inspires deeper learning and fosters students’ ability to think more critically and strategically. But how can you work to ensure that this actually happens? Step one: encourage students to build and use the skills that help them understand how they can learn from the discussions that take place in your course. In McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, Fourteenth Edition, Marilla Svinicki and Wilbert J. McKeachie present seven skills that students can adopt to get the most from class discussions and, in the process, become more critical thinkers. We’ve summarized their points below. 1. Knowing how and why Read More…


Set the Groundwork for Effective Classroom Conversation

Have you ever wondered why some class discussions spark student engagement, while others seem to fade with relative speed? Perhaps it has to do with the level of student interest in a particular topic, the personalities of the students in your class, or another factor that’s particular to your course. However, the way you approach a topic can also effect students’ willingness to engage in discussion.

Below, we’ve summarized some ideas for sparking effective classroom conversation, found in McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers, Fourteenth Edition, which you can use to set the stage for energetic and informed discussions. Read More…


Strategies for Teaching Adult Learners

Look around your campus, or consider the roster of your online courses, and you’ll likely notice that many of the students fall outside of the “traditional” college age range of the late teens to early twenties. You might surmise that their reasons for attending college differ, at least in some senses, from those of the students who transition to college immediately after high school graduation. Some adult learners are making their first foray into higher education or are aiming to complete a degree that they began earlier in life. A good number are seeking an advanced degree. Many return to Read More…


How to Successfully Collaborate Online

Think back to the class sessions and meetings that have felt especially collaborative and engaging. What qualities do those experiences share? Perhaps it’s the particular mix of people involved, the sheer number of new ideas that came out of your discussion, or an overall welcoming environment that fosters creativity and conversation. In any event, it likely wasn’t an experience that felt stuffy, dull, or disorganized. Though positive collaborative experiences do feel energizing, natural, and free, even the most organic meetings benefit from some semblance of preparation, organization, and respect for fellow participants. This is even more true for Read More…


Strategies for Successful Real-Time Online Chat Sessions

For an online course, real-time chats (often referred to as synchronous discussions) provide an opportunity for students to interact with you and their classmates in a “live” setting. They may take place as a stand-alone discussion, or they may appear alongside a webinar or a presentation within an online collaboration platform. They’re also a helpful means of building community in your online course. But, because these sessions lack the visual and aural communication cues present during an in-person conversation, the act of managing that chat can pose a challenge. (And, of course, if things get too far Read More…


Encouraging Non-Participants to Join in Your Discussion

Whether because of fear, distraction, passivity, lack of preparedness, or another reason altogether, some students shy away from participating in classroom discussions. However, as an instructor, you have goals for your discussion times—and undoubtedly, you have high hopes that all students will want to engage in the conversation. For that reason, you probably want to help those reluctant or non-participating students recognize that, just as they value hearing someone else’s ideas and opinions, other students benefit from hearing their knowledge and perspective. If this situation resonates with you, you may be interested in some ideas that can Read More…


Getting Students Active and Engaged on Day One

Students have differing levels of comfort around classroom participation. Some will jump right into the course, answering questions and discussing their viewpoints from day one. Yet others are more reticent. Many don’t respond because they’re afraid that their fellow students will mock what they have to say; or, they may think that they have nothing valuable to contribute and therefore remain silent. Ideally, you want to get all students involved and engaged in your discussions, even on that first day. However, it can, admittedly, be a challenge to get all of your students warmed up to the idea of contributing to the Read More…


Connecting Students With One Another

This week on the blog, we’ve shared some “icebreaker” activities that can get students engaged with each other and with your class. We hope you’re enjoying these activities and that they’re sparking some ideas that you can bring into your course. In today’s activity, selected from the Instructor’s Resource Manual for Student Success in College: Doing What Works!: A Research-Focused Approachauthor Christine Harrington presents an idea that can be used later in the term, once students are a bit more familiar with one another. To promote further connections among class members and with you as their professor, Read More…


Building Community in Your Online Course

In addition to the educational opportunities that broaden students’ intellectual horizons, college life provides a number of opportunities designed to bring students together and broaden their social horizons. Take a look at a bulletin board on a traditional college campus, and you’ll find numerous flyers promoting concerts, guest lectures, movies, club activities, and other enjoyable events that give them the chance to meet other like-minded individuals. Likewise, the periods of time before and after classes offer students the chance to set up a less formal get-together, such as a study group for the big exam or an afternoon Read More…


Your Feedback & Experiences: Teaching Online

Today, the feedback we share focuses on readers’ experiences and best practices for teaching and learning online — a topic we address frequently on the blog. We hope you’ll gain insight from their ideas, and feel inspired to share your own best practices. Do you teach online? Would you like to discuss your thoughts or experiences? Add your comments below, or send them to [email protected].   I’ve migrated two F2F [face-to-face] classes to the online format, and I’m in the process of creating another. My basic philosophy is that students should not have MORE work to do in an online Read More…