Getting Students to Talk to Each Other, Rather than the Teacher

Teaching & Learning in Higher Ed.

How can we get students to talk to each other in class discussions, rather than just to the teacher? How can we get students to talk to each other in class discussions?

In reading Stephen D. Brookfield and Stephen Preskill’s Discussion as a Way of Teaching, I’m learning new things and remembering things I’d forgotten about how to help students discuss well. The book is a wonderful resource, rich with theory and practice for teaching with discussion as a way to promote democracy in the classroom and society, which is to say, at least in part, getting students to participate in their own and each others’ learning. Discussion undertaken in the way that Brookfield and Preskill describe gets students actively involved and loosens up the strict teacher-student hierarchy implied and enacted by, say, the traditional lecture.

But these benefits do not occur as well in discussions where all questions and comments by students are directed to the teacher and the teacher responds directly to each thing said. In those cases, the teacher doesn’t hog the ball the whole time, just half…

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