Engaging discussions are one of the most rewarding and memorable activities that students and faculty alike can experience in the classroom. Recent research shows that classroom discussion deepens learning, creates community, and helps students form an academic identity.
At the same time, classroom discussion is a challenging pedagogical undertaking. It requires the instructor to orchestrate learning among a group of students who likely do not know each other, come from a diversity of backgrounds, possess a range of political commitments, arrive with varying levels of familiarity with the course material, and have different levels of comfort speaking in class.
Inviting students to discuss also comes with some risk because we don’t know what students are going to say. That unknown means that the instructor will have to be ready to follow one student’s interesting and unexpected line of thought, correct another’s misunderstanding about the material, and also be prepared to respond to any number of possibly off-topic, inappropriate, hostile, or naïve comments.
To address these promises and challenges, the School of Education has designed a professional development program for faculty and teaching staff called The Discussion Project.