Discussion as a Common Teaching Strategy.


Yes, we all know that discussions are one of the most common teaching strategies. A focused and purposeful discussion creates authentic opportunities for the learners to increase perspective-taking, understanding, empathy, and higher-order thinking. All these skills are essential for an IB student.

It is widely used as a natural form of conversation and because it is so common, it seems, often teachers just expect students to be able to discuss.

As an EAL specialist, I often find that discussion (as a teaching strategy) should be taught and facilitated, and not only for ELLs.

“A quality discussion…”, according to the University of Washington’s Center for Instructional Development and Research, “involves purposeful questions prepared in advance, assessment, and starting points for further conversations.” T. Finley.

It might be really beneficial for students, if we, at ISPP elementary, agree upon some discussion standards and consistently teach the students what it means to be an effective discussion group member. It is the same approach that we are using for reading and writing instruction and it makes perfect sense to apply it to speaking and listening.

In order to develop our students discussion skills and engagement in language activities, as well as receive an academic outcome from these activities, we, as teachers, need to carefully prepare and guide our students. This needs to be done through establishing a culture of speaking and discussion practice routines, as well as by supporting our students with language scaffolds and sentence/question starters.

WE have to:

  • Teach our students how to ask various kinds of questions (model it)
  • Choose highly interesting topics for discussion
  • Put thinking before knowing
  • Discuss rules of a discussion and assign roles
  • Explain what a skillful discussion group member does (has ideas, explains idea, puts ideas together, asks other people’s opinion, asks quiet group members what they think, listens actively, praises good ideas and suggestions, is willing to compromise) and practice these behaviors with the students
  • Prepare your scaffolds for a particular topic and language ability group

Here is the original task designed by Epstein (1972) to improve discussion skills. http://web.stanford.edu/class/ed284/csb/4Stage/4Stage.pdf

The Big List of Class Discussion Strategies http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/speaking-listening-techniques/



2 thoughts on “Discussion as a Common Teaching Strategy.”

  1. Tatiana – this is an enlightening post. I got really hooked on the idea of us creating a set of standards around discussion that we can use in Elementary. Have you gone any further down that road? I wonder if they could universal…but built up across the grade levels? The Cult of Pedagogy is great starting point as Jennifer Gonzalez is always very research-based whilst being firmly based in the reality that are our differing learning environments in school.

    1. Thanks Paula, I am glad you liked the idea of creating a set of standards for discussion. I hope to develop this idea and appreciate your suggestion on the structure. It could become part of our revised language curriculum… or an appendix or something for all of us to refer to and use the language consistently with our students.

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