Explore Strategies - Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation - Carnegie Mellon University

Step 3: Explore Strategies

Explore potential strategies.

My students don’t participate in discussion.

Students may not have experience participating in discussions.

Discussions call for a set of skills that are uniquely applied in this context. These skills include things like identifying the speaker’s main point, building on or expanding an already articulated idea, making connections among ideas, respectfully disagreeing with an idea or claim, providing an alternative perspective, asking follow-up questions to flesh out a speaker’s idea, connecting ideas to course concepts or theories, using evidence to support one’s position, idea, or claim. While students may have developed or honed some of these individual skills in other contexts (e.g., identifying an author’s main point in a reading), discussions happen quickly and require that students draw on these skills simultaneously.

Strategies:

Outline your goals.

Define your expectations.

Articulate ground rules.

Model appropriate behavior.

Allow students time to think.

Outline your goals.

Clearly articulate the goals for the discussion so that students understand what the desired outcome is, and use these goals as mileposts to help them recognize and monitor the development of their own understanding and the progress of the discussion.

Define your expectations.

Clearly specify your expectations regarding what constitutes meaningful participation. For example, tell students that asking thoughtful questions, making connections to theory, building on previous comments, and identifying real world examples or applications make valuable contributions toward collective learning. The reason this is beneficial is because it allows student to engage in learning behaviors that align with the goals of the course and to monitor their progress toward those goals.

Articulate ground rules.

Lay ground rules for participation (pdf)  that clearly defines acceptable and unacceptable behavior (e.g., turn-taking, language). For example, it is not acceptable to use pejoratives, labels, or sarcasm; it is inappropriate to verbally attack a person rather than their idea; it is important to allow others to speak rather than interrupt or usurp the floor. The need for ground rules is even more important if you are dealing with a controversial issue where students in the minority perspective could potentially feel inhibited to participate. You may even involve students in this process to insure greater student buy-in.

Model appropriate behavior.

As you participate and lead the discussion, demonstrate for students meaningful interaction. For example, show students how to respectfully disagree with an idea or perspective rather than attack a peer.

Allow students time to think.

To reduce self-consciousness or anxiety associated with either not having experience participating in discussions or the fast-paced nature of discussions, give students time, individually or in small groups, to actively engage with the material by discussing an issue or question before they are asked to share a perspective or response with the class.

This site supplements our 1-on-1 teaching consultations.
CONTACT US to talk with an Eberly colleague in person!

 

learning principles

  1. Students’ prior knowledge can help or hinder learning. MORE>
  2. How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and apply what they know. MORE>
  3. Students’ motivation determines, directs, and sustains what they do to learn. MORE>
  4. To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned. MORE>
  5. Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback enhances the quality of students’ learning. MORE>
  6. Students’ current level of development interacts with the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning. MORE>
  7. To become self-directed learners, students must learn to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning. MORE>