Classroom Conversation: The Use Of Discussion-Based Strategy In The History Classroom, pp. 4 of 10

Yet, while these challenges are classroom realities, they should not hinder teachers from using the strategy. Some of these initial teething issues can be resolved by preparing the class well before the discussion takes place. For example, scribes can be allocated to each group so that the discussions are captured. This can be used later on as class discussions points and as summary to conclude the lesson. Also, to help students master content areas, information packages or reading materials can be given prior to the lesson. In addition, the teacher can also prepare the class by setting ground rules for discussion so that students are more aware of how to collaborate and how to communicate their ideas better. It is expected that both the teacher and students will encounter some initial difficulty. Nevertheless, the benefits to learning outweigh the initial challenges.

According to Brookfield and Preskill (2012), the benefit of discussion is that it exposes students to different and new points of view, and will subsequently increase students’ understanding and renew their motivation to continue to learn. Through this process, students will gain collective wisdom which they may not be able to achieve on their own. In Visible Learning for Teachers, Hattie (2012) encouraged teachers to pay attention to how students learn, instead of solely focusing on what they are learning. Hence, students must be given space and time to think about what they know, to listen to the various viewpoints presented by the teacher and their peers, to evaluate the information that they have received and to synthesize it with their own knowledge.

As teachers, we play the role of a facilitator to guide our students and provide support when they need it. In one of my first few attempts at using discussions as a teaching strategy, I felt the need to explain, in great detail, the circumstances surrounding Hitler’s rise to power, before explaining the inquiry question, the learning intentions and the success criteria of their task. After my lengthy explanation, I set my students to work on their preparation for discussion. When I collected their work, I realized that I had provided too much scaffolding and my students had not been given the opportunity to explore the given sources on their own. Their preparation work ended up echoing points that I raised during the lesson. I learnt that I have to give my students more space and opportunity to learn on their own. As teachers, we should help level up students’ ability based on where they are at and not where we want them to go immediately.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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