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Facilitating Group Discussions

Many students find courses which incorporate in-class discussions to be particularly rewarding and beneficial for developing their intellectual (as well as personal) interests in a discipline. What we mean when we talk about "discussion" in the classroom varies in terms of implementation, but several challenges remain for this style of teaching: students, particularly those who are unfamiliar with general expectations for college-level discourse, might initially be reluctant to contribute; participation patterns might be uneven across the students; sensitive, divisive, or difficult topics might be introduced; and students may struggle to extract relevant insights from these conversations.


Participants will leave this this workshop being able to:

  • Consider the extent to which discussion-based methods might be incorporated into their teaching within their disciplines;
  • Prepare and plan for types of questions that help foster effective discussion;
  • Apply techniques for sustaining and (re)directing the in-class dialogue; and
  • Develop strategies for monitoring, tracking, and synthesizing students' contributions throughout the class.


  • Brinkley, A., Dessants, B., Flamm, M., Fleming, C., Forcey, C., & Rothschild, E. (1999). Classroom discussions. In The Chicago Handbook for Teachers: A Practical Guide to the College Classroom, pp. 33-49. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
  • Brookfield, S. D., & Preskill, S. (2005). Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • hooks, b. (1994). Building a teaching community: A dialogue. In Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, pp. 129-165. New York: Routledge.
  • McKeachie, W. J. (2002). Facilitating discussion: Posing problems, listening, questioning. In McKeachie's Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers (11th ed.), pp. 30-51. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Scott, A. F. (2007). Why I teach by discussion. In A. L. Deneef and C. D. Goodwin, The Academic's Handbook (3rd ed.), pp. 212-216. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • "Facilitating Group Discussions" list on WorldCat, with links to VCU Libraries' holdings

For more information, contact Phil Edwards (804-827-0533 or pmedwards@vcu.edu).

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Last modified: June 20, 2013
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