Justifying Class Discussion to Students
As much as students complain about large lecture classes, sometimes they feel like they haven’t learned anything if they don’t leave class with pages of notes filled with content knowledge. Thus, you may need to convince your students that they really are learning whenever they’re actively engaged in class discussions. You can tell them that educational research supports the effectiveness of discussion teaching in accomplishing both main types of course objectives:
Transfer of knowledge: memory is affected by how deeply we process new knowledge, and simply listening to or writing down information results in low retention. Discussion requires students to think about and consolidate new knowledge, thus improving retention.
Critical thinking: learning new ways of thinking requires practice. Lectures are only minimally effective in changing the way students think because they amount to coaching without practice. Discussion allows you to do some coaching, but more important, it allows students to practice the new ways of thinking that they are learning.
Also consider touting the practical benefits of discussion-based courses. For example, discussion classes are just livelier and more fun than lectures. Your class may be one of the few in which your students get to know their classmates and their instructor. Not only do they have an opportunity to make friends, but also they can develop a relationship with a UT instructor who might later write them letters of recommendation.
- How to prepare for a discussion day