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The Purpose of Discussion
Aside from learning the lesson, there are two other important goals for the teaching strategy called discussion. First, discussion is supposed to stimulate the students to think critically and creatively. And second, discussion is supposed to develop the students’ social interaction skills. Unfortunately, these two goals are not often met because teachers sometimes can't successfully carry out a real classroom discussion.
What happens in the classroom is that the teacher provides a topic with an unwritten warning that students stay within that topic. Thus, instead of thinking critically and creatively, the student attempts to second guess the thoughts of the teacher. And instead of developing social interaction skills, the students simply attempt to please the teacher. In classrooms such as these, there is no real discussion that occurs.
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When NOT to Conduct Discussions
Discussion is not applicable in all classroom situations. For example, if there are more than 20 students in a classroom, discussion should be the last teaching strategy that should be considered. Otherwise, only a few students will be able to participate. The rest will become passive or will no longer care about the topic.
Discussion should not be conducted when the teacher and students are under time constraints. Therefore, it is not an effective technique during review lessons. Discussion should also not be used when the teacher is attempting to cover many topics within a short period of time.
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To ensure the success of the discussion technique, the teacher and the students must be prepared. On the part of the students, preparation comes with information that is given beforehand. Such information can be in the book or in a hand-out that was provided the day before the discussion. This preparation limits the possibility of getting off-track during the discussion.
On the part of the teacher, there should be prepared questions to guide and steer the discussion. These questions should challenge the students. These questions should not be generic. These questions, however, should not be the only questions that will be asked during the discussion. Students must be allowed to ask their own questions. Of course, discussion is best if there is a stimulus. Thus, the teacher may also prepare a short video or a map that will be utilized in the discussion.
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Discussions can be boring or exciting, irrelevant or interesting. To make the discussion exciting and interesting, the teacher must first show enthusiasm for the topic. If the teacher is energetic, the students will be energized. Then, the teacher must give weight or importance to the questions and opinions of the students.
And finally, if the students are at the height of animation, the teacher should avoid dampening their spirits by abruptly ending the discussion. If the class has reached the limits of time, the teacher must immediately set the next schedule for a discussion.