folks in discussion around a campfire
Including discussions as one of your teaching methods, whether as a whole class or in small groups, allows students to think more deeply and broadly about the concepts they are learning.

How Can I Do This?

Discussions can be with the whole class or in small groups. In a whole class discussion you can control the content and direction more easily but in small groups more students are actively engaged. 

How can I encourage my students to talk?

Promote a positive environment. Students have to feel comfortable to contribute and be able to debate ideas in a respectful, non-judgmental environment:

What kind of questions should I ask?

The success of a discussion session relies heavily on the quality of the prompt or question to be discussed. It takes time to develop good prompts and some will work with some classes better than others.

How do I know my students know enough to discuss the topic?

The point of discussions is for students to think more deeply about the content. Therefore, it is important that you assess their level of understanding before asking them to discuss a particular topic. You can do this by:

How do I lead or facilitate class discussions effectively?

Discussions can very easily get off track. Although at times letting the conversation veer into unplanned territory can be beneficial, keep in mind the point of this learning opportunity and facilitate the discussion so that students stay on course for the topic at hand.

How do I know if the discussion was successful?

Discussions can serve many purposes for your class. They can succeed at achieving certain outcomes and still leave plenty of room for refinement. As you reflect on how to maximize the value of class discussions, consider the following:

Why Is This Important?

Discussions draw students out -- beyond their basic knowledge to apply more advanced concepts "out there" in the world, beyond their own perspectives to understand where someone else is coming from, and beyond their own private thinking to articulate their point of view so others can understand. 

Discussion requires students to think critically about the knowledge they're learning.

When students discuss issues with each other, they have more opportunities to:

Participating in discussions allows students to engage diverse perspectives.

Often we surround ourselves with people who have similar lifestyles, values, and assumptions, but class discussions let students encounter and work with different students coming from a different standpoint. Students' horizons are expanded when they:

Discussions build communication skills.

The best way for students to improve their communication skills is to practice communicating. Using the discussion method in class regularly allows students to gradually develop their communication skills as they:

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Effective Questions for Leading Discussions

Education Development Centre composed a quick guide for developing good discussion questions.