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Facilitating Class Discussion

Overview
One of the overwhelmingly consistent findings of the last several decades of writing pedagogy scholarship has been the importance of fostering effective class discussion. However, finding the right techniques for encouraging students to join discussion in a course as well as making sure that discussion stays on track and is closely linked to core course objectives can be a daunting task. The following resources (all available online with WSU library access) provide concise and practical advice for making the most of class discussion.

Barton, Jennifer, Paul Heilker, and David Rutkowski. Fostering Class Discussion.
A quick, six-point primer on effective techniques composed by members of Virginia Tech’s English Department.

Joliffe, David A. “A Structure for a Successful Class Session.” Strategies for Teaching First-Year Composition. Eds. Duane Rosen et al. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2002: 219-220.
In this article, Joliffe outlines a set of guideliness for a focused and productive class session: begin the class with an activity that will focus the students on the material to be discussed, let the students know your sense of purpose for the class session, take care of any classroom business, explain or demonstrate the materials/activities/techniques for the class session, ask the students to extend your demonstration or discussion (individually or in groups), assign homework, and close the class with something that will pull together all materials/activities/techniques.

Lang, James M. On Course: A Week By Week Guide to Your First Semester of College Teaching. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008.
Although written for the first-time teacher, this text provides a great overview of best practices in pedagogy useful to instructors of any level of experience. Chapter 4 is devoted to tips for effective classroom discussion.

Lyday, Margaret M. “Facilitating Class Discussion.” Strategies for Teaching First-Year Composition. Eds. Duane Rosen et al. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2002: 216-219.
This article emphasizes the importance of classroom discussion in engaging student writers as active learners rather than passive learners. Lyday argues that the two essential items for classroom discussion are that the teacher have a specific goal and that the students are provided with enough “raw material” (i.e. lectures, presentations, previous experience) to develop analytical and evaluative conclusions. The article also offers tips for creating a classroom enviornment that is conducive to discussion.

Robinson, Jule. “A Strategy for Student-Led Writing and Discussion.” Strategies for Teaching First-Year Composition. Eds. Duane Rosen et al. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2002: 220-223.
In this article, Robinson outlines a method for creating student-centered discussion in the classroom that incorporates student-centered discussion, discussion, evaluation, and one-to-one conferencing. In this lesson, the students are required to lead the in-class discussion on an assigned day, design an in-class writing assignment, grade the assignment, and meat with the instructor for feedback.  The article also includes an example assignment sheet and a template for a worksheet each student must fill out prior to meeting with the instructor.

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