Students can work together and take responsibility for each other's learning as well as their own. Having students work together cooperatively can lead to greater understanding and retention of material. It can also lead to higher student motivation and more positive attitudes.
Sometimes students may not have the necessary skills to interact with their peers in groups. Establishing guidelines for group work and discussion not only sets expectations, but provides students with guidance on skills they may need to develop.
ROPES. General guidelines for group discussions.
- R = Respect: Treat each other with respect, even if you disagree. Only one person speaks at a time. Listen carefully to each other without interruptions.
- O = Openness: Speak honestly. The most respectful thing we can do together is to be real. Be willing to say what you really think about each topic. If you hold back, we cannot learn from you.
- P = Participation: Speak briefly so everyone has a chance to participate. Stay on the topic at hand.
- E = Education: Everyone comes to the table to learn, grow, and share, not to espouse expertise or authority over a subject.
- S = Sensitivity: Use “I” Statements. Speak only for yourself, rather than as a representative for any group. Remember that others are only speaking for themselves.
Within class discussion, students can participate in a number of forms. Clearly defining what participation means in your course allows students to anticipate how they will engage in the discussion.
- Consider posing a question to the class but waiting a full ten seconds before allowing students to respond. This structured silence allows students to process the question and formulate their answer before participating.
- Writing out responses to a question or comment ensures that all students participate. Reading a written response to the class may be easier for some students than verbally articulating their thoughts in the moment. Written responses can also be shared or collected.
Brookfield, S.D. (1999). Discussion as a Way of Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc.
Sometimes class discussions involve difficult dialogue. The University of Anchorage Alaska and Alaska Pacific University published a handbook that includes several classroom strategies for challenging conversations.