-2DISCUSSION METHOD The discussion method is one in which the students and the instructor exchange their ideas in order to get a better understanding of a topic. It can be a whole period or be a part of a lesson. The discussion method, when used properly, is a good way to stimulate thinking on the part of the student. It can be used to advantage when the students have a background knowledge of the subject being discussed. The instructor should prompt everyone to take part, thus allowing the students the opportunity to learn from everyone in the group.
The discussion method is interaction centered and can be teacher or student centered, and can be held in either a large or small group. Interaction techniques capitalize on the human desire to talk and share one’s thoughts. Personal activity permits greater involvement in the lesson. Advantages and Special Used of the Discussion Method 1. Expands the cognitive and affective domains of students. 2. Can be used to solve problems and develop interest in the topic. 3. Emphasizes main teaching points. 4. Utilizes student knowledge and ideas. 5.
Results in more permanent learning because of the high degree of student involvement. 6. Determine student understanding and progress. 7. Everyone has a chance to get involved. 8. Teaches how to come to an agreement within a group without arguing. 9. Permits students are teacher to get acquainted. Limitations of the Discussion Method 1. Tend to get off topic if the instructor doesn’t continually redirect ideas. 2. More informed and eager pupils tend to monopolize the discussion. 3. Not suitable for presenting information for the first time. 4.
Not very effective in describing procedures or breakdown of a component. B23-E205-LAP2C -3- 5. Content is limited and the method is time consuming. 6. It restricts the size of groups. 7. The larger the groups the more difficult it is to guide the discussion. 8. Knowledge of the group. Preparing for a Discussion Planning for a lesson wherein you intend to use the GUIDED discussion method is basically the same as planning for a lesson using the lecture method. Generally, before you decide to use the guided discussion, you must consider the objectives rather carefully.
You must also consider your students to determine whether they have the knowledge required to exchange and build on to arrive at an achievement of your objectives. As with any lesson, your first step is to establish specific, student-centered, behavioral objectives. Once you have planned your objective and some way of evaluating achievement, you may find it necessary to do some personal research. The discussion leader must be very well informed about the objectives. Organize your main teaching points and your subordinate points in logical sequence and plan at least one lead-off question per teaching point.
It is also wise to anticipate some of the material you will get from your students and plan follow-up questions for areas where you feel difficulties could arise. Leading the Discussion Careful planning makes presentation relatively straightforward. The introduction to the guided discussion lesson is standard, having only the added responsibility on your part to try to create the atmosphere necessary to good discussion. As part of the motivation, you can remind the students that it is their responsibility to contribute.
During the “presentation” – the actual discussion itself – questions are the key. These must be planned and organized carefully for continuity, direction and control. The nature of the questions you plan will be determined by the objectives. Avoid questions that ask for only short answers the “who” or “when” type. Ask broad question, the “why” or “how” type. You must be prepared to guide the discussion along any track, so long as the discussion still remains profitable in view of your objectives.
Once you begin to put off the track,the thing to do is for you to halt the discussion, provide a summary of B23-E205-LAP2C -4- valid points made to date, then provide a new leading question that will put the discussion back on the rails. Visual aids may be used during guided discussion just as in any other lesson. You may find the chalkboard a very flexible and useful aid for interim summaries as the development of material progresses during the discussion.
Flip charts may also be put to good use. Other types of visual-aids like films transparencies, tapes, etc.can be very useful in providing background information. Concluding Concluding the guided discussion may take several forms. Depending on what method of evaluation you selected, you may wish to provide an oral or written test before finalizing. Generally, you must summarize the main ideas developed by the students during discussion, and relate them firmly to the objectives. Let your students know what they accomplished and praise them, as they deserve. During guided discussion lessons, you must be aware of individual personalities among your students.
Encourage the considerate, rebuke the rude, and emphasize the worth of individual thought no matter if the thought does not happen to border on genius. Boost the shy student into the discussion; hold back the brash one who would take over. As for all other forms of instruction, thorough personal preparation is the key to success. Summary The discussion method has highly valuable side benefits in that it promotes reflective thinking, improves self-expression social attributes, and encourages group thinking and cooperative effort.
While it is generally thought to be most useful in teaching abstractions, it can, for example, be useful in teaching technical material as well, if there is sufficient student background knowledge to make discussion worthwhile. NOTE: Make sure you have studied Chapter 8 in “Lesson Planning for Meaningful Variety in Teaching” and Chapter 7 in “Instructors and Their Jobs”. B23-E205-LAP2C -5- Activity Good class discussions, though they may appear informal and spontaneous, are really the result of careful thought and preparation.
For a description of the unique values and characteristics of each of the three discussion techniques, and the teacher’s responsibilities in planning and conducting each, read the following information sheet: GROUP DISCUSSIONS, PANEL DISCUSSION, AND SYMPOSIUMS Whenever two or three people are gathered together, a discussion usually takes place. The people may discuss the prospects of the local pro-football team in the upcoming season, the merits of various measures used to control inflation, the trends in behavior among young people, or any of a thousand other topics.
The discussion may be based on accurate information based on accurate information and facts, or it may be based merely on personal opinion and emotion. People enjoy the stimulation of discussion and frequently find that discussion with friends changes their own attitudes or helps them solve a personal problem. Discussion is one method by which new ideas may be tested, and it is not too much to say that this process of interchange of ideas is basic in the democratic process. Discussion is also used in the classroom.
However, in the classroom, it need to have much more definite aims and structure than does the discussion that takes place on the street corner or around the restaurant table. The guided classroom discussion is designed by the teacher to develop group understanding and agreement through talk and reflective thinking. Its aims are to stimulate thought and analysis, encourage interpretations of the facts, and develop new attitudes or change old ones. With good leadership, evidence on a crucial issue or problem is brought out, the group evaluates the evidence, and some general conclusions are reached.
Lectures are not discussions. Discussions also are not demonstrations, review sessions, question-and-answer periods, recitations, or the wandering conversations known as “bull sessions. ” While some of these methods are extremely valuable in teaching vocational subjects, they are most suitable for the presentation of information. Group discussion methods, however, involve the interchange of questions a nd ideas among the participants. While lecture and discussion both involve much talking, students participate much more extensively in the discussion.
A lecture may be an efficient method of giving a cabinetmaking class information about American hardwood furniture lumbers. However, if the point of the lecture is for the class to develop ideas about how our dwindling lumber supplies may be conserved by industrial and governmental policies, a group discussion may be more appropriate. B23-E205-LAP2C -6- An important value of class discussion is its potential for problem solving. It is usually more valuable four students to work out problems and misunderstanding by themselves through discussion than it is for them to listen to a teacher and present solutions through an illus trated talk.
When the students do the talking and thinking, they are more intellectually involved, and they feel that the material is more relevant to them. A well-conducted discussion reveals a variety of viewpoints that students may not have realized e xisted. If the right environment is maintained, they may begin to gain a healthy respect for the positions of others. They may also begin to understand the weakness of an opinion that is not based on facts or accurate information. For example, an auto mechanics teacher may be conducting a class discussion on automotive safety.
The student who is not prepared and speaks out loudly against the use of seat belt will probably find out how difficult that position is to sustain. This will be especially true if that student is confronted by other students who are prepared with data about he value of seat belts in reducing injury rates. There are several important limitations to the discussion method that must be recognized by the vocational teacher if the method is to be used effectively. As mentioned previously, discussion is generally not the facts. It is time consuming and may give an unbalanced presentation.
Another weakness of the discussion method is that, like the lecture method, it involves more talk than action. Finally, a good discussion must be a carefully planned learning event, not be undertaken in an offhand or impulsive manner. If these limitations are understood and accepted, class discussion methods can lend a new dimension to learning and can provide a variety in the vocational classroom. Types of Discussion Technique There are three basic kinds of discussion techniques that can be profitably used in the vocational classroom. Each has unique characteristics and potential, yet all share some common values.
The group discussion involves that total class of students organized for the purpose of (1) sharing information concerning a specific topic, and (2) analyzing and evaluating that information in order to arrive at some general conclusions. Ideally, all class members actively participate in the group discussion. They participate in the group discussion. They participate either as a unit or divided into smaller groups, and usually the teacher is in charge.
A group discussion may have as its purpose to arrive at a definite decision or goal (e. g.“What kind of exhibit does our group want to have at the county fair? ”). However, the purpose also may be simply to encourage the exchange of ideas without attempting to teach a decision (e. g. , a discussion of a nurse’s aide). B23-E205-LAP2C -7- A panel discussion is essentially, a small group discussion overheard by an audience. The panel members (perhaps three or four in number) are seated before the class in a manner that allows them to talk with one another easily and, at the same time, be seen and heard by the class. A chairman presides to direct the discussion and equalize the participation.
A symposium is more formal and less spontaneous that a panel discussion. It is a presentation in which several speakers talk on various aspects of an issue or problem. At the conclusion of the talk, they usually respond to questions from each other and from the audience. An example might be that of a group composed of a shop owner, and electronics expert and a consumer advocate speaking on the topic of improving service in the T. V. repair industry.
To a greater or lesser extent, each of these forms of discussion shares the same characteristics and values for education, but each has its own special effectiveness in a vocational classroom. The advantages and disadvantages of each of the three discussion techniques are given in the statements that follow. The Group Discussion Advantages: • It involves the total class.
• The process is directed by a subject matter expert–the teacher. • It gives the entire class an opportunity to check on the idea presented. • It may stimulate critical thinking. • It allows for arriving at group consensus. Disadvantages: • Discussion moves slowly; class may be sidetracked. • A few talkers may dominate discussion.
The Panel Discussion Advantages: • It provides for spontaneous interaction of participants and audience. • It allows for both questions and answers. • Fast moving questions and answers create class interest. • Discussion can cover a great deal of ground under a skillful leader. Disadvantages: • • • • It tends to present the topic in an unsystematic manner. It may be difficult to control time used by each panelist. Many questions can be left only partially answered. It requires panel members who are articulate and can think quickly. B23-E205-LAP2C.
-8The Symposium Advantages: • A variety of knowledge and experience can be presented. • Changing speakers and breaking up the time helps hold attention of the class. • It creates interest, especially if the topic is controversial. • It encourages more class involvement than a lecture. Disadvantages: • It may not provide thorough coverage of the topic. • It may consist only of opinions if participants are not well prepared. • It can handle only one minor issue. Broad speaking, then, the group discussion is best used when the whole class needs to be involved and when they have the information on which to base their discussion.
The panel is very effective when there is a group of students who can prepare well for, and talk freely on, a topic of concern to the class. The symposium makes good use of experts to present varying views of a controversial subject. The wire vocational teacher will realize that because these techniques involve more talk than action, they cannot be used too frequently or they will lose their impact. However, every vocational education program has areas within it in which students should be given an opportunity to think critically and reach defensible conclusions.
In the sections that follow, the teacher’s responsibilities in planning for, conducting, and following through on these techniques are given in more detail. B23-E205-LAP2C -9- The Teacher’s Role in the Group Discussion In a discussion involving the total group, the teacher’s role is a crucial one. As the one who does the major share of the planning and preparation, and who usually leads the discussion, the teacher is the dominant and central figure. While students will contribute their information, their teacher is also the subject matter expert and the authority figure i n this form of discussion.
Thus, while a lively class discussion might appear open and free, almost casual, to an outside observer, the effective teacher has planned carefully for the event and is indirectly guiding the discussion. This is true whether the discussion involves the class as a whole, the class divided into smaller groups, or one small group supervised by the teacher while other students work independently. The first responsibility of the teacher is that of guiding the group in selecting a topic for the discussion. The topic usually evolves from the ongoing work of the class.
For example, when the agriculture class is studying the class is studying the use of pesticides in controlling destructive insects, the discussion topic may emerge as “How should the farmer react to the proposed banning of certain pesticides for environmental and health reasons? ” The class may also be motivated and prepared for a discussion because of some previous experience they had, such as a field trip in which the y observed a new team-approach to auto assembly, or a film they viewed on working conditions in the mining industry.
They may also he motivated because of a lecture they listened to on employment opportunities in the field or a provocative magazine article they read on how modular house construction will change the carpentry trade in the future. The teacher will have to guide topic selection, but the group should feel that they participated in the process, and that the topic is relevant to their needs and interests. Lack of group involvement explains why some topics brought up by the teacher fail to stimulate discussion.
Questions that should be asked of the proposed topic include: Does the problem or topic affect many in the group? Will discussion of it be helpful to the group? Is it important? Is the group competent enough to deal with it, in terms of their experience, maturity, or the available resources? In the planning and preparation stage, the teacher may need to orient students to the discussion technique in order to prepare them to use discussion time economically. This especially true if the students’ previous experience with “discussion” has been that of an uncontrolled venting of opinion.
They will need to be encouraged or directed to do some reading or other research and to make note of possible questions prior to the discussion. The teacher also will need to be prepared with current information. If the class for bank tellers is going to discuss security problems, the teacher may find it necessary to learn about the latest security techniques before leading the class on the topic. During preparation, the teacher can also prepare a list of pertinent and leading questions, designed to help cove the necessary ground and stimulating thinking.
Particularly helpful are B23-E205-LAP2C -10- questions that will help get the discussion going during what may otherwise be an awkward “warming-up” period. The physical arrangement of the class for a discussion is far more important than it might at first appear. Attempting to hold a group discussion in a large shop with the students scattered around their work stations almost guarantees failure. Likewise, a classroom setting where students are seated in a series of straight rows makes it difficult for them to see and hear each other and inhibits communication.
The teacher should plan the setting for close but informal grouping, with chairs in a semi-circle, in clusters, or around a large table or grouping of tables. The teacher-leader should be located near the apex of the ushaped group, or wherever all students can see and hear him/her. As the discussion begins, the teacher should lead off by introducing the topic to be discussed, the general limits of the topic, and the time schedule agreed on. The teacher should make the problem clear to all by stating it in specific and direct terms.
For example, the teacher in the child care class would not announce the topic simply by saying “Today we are going to discuss lead poisoning,” but perhaps by saying, “What is the scope of the problem of lead poisoning in children today, and what actions can be taken to control the problem? ” The teacher may formulate some leading questions while a student writes the on the chalkboard. Such questions might be: How serious is the problem of lead poisoning in children:” Why are children more seriously affected than adults? What can the government do about the problem?
What can the child care worker do? It will be necessary to allow some “warming-up” time, but as the group gains more experience in discussion, less teacher prompting will be needed. The teacher need not be afraid of some silence as students organize their thoughts, but dead stops in the discussion should be avoided by the use of stimulating questions. As the discussion progresses, the teacher should attempt to establish a free and friendly atmosphere in which contributions can be made without fear, and all have an equal opportunity to participate.
The teacher sets the friendly tone, gives consideration to all contributions, and guides the talk within the outlines of the problem. Each member is encouraged to contribute, with special attention being given to students who are timid or who have difficulty in expressing themselves in public. The extent of learning is closely related to the degree of student interaction and participation, and an atmosphere of friendly cooperation helps students learn to give and take and to respect honest differences.
An adversary approach or one of aggressive competition is threatening to most students, so a discussion that takes such a turn loses all but the most self confident and gifted students. The skillful discussion leader develops an awareness of facial expressions and is sensitive to enthusiasm and to the attitudes of the group. Such a leader calls upon anyone who indicates interest nonverbally, but who does not volunteer, in order to B23-E205-LAP2C -11- provide the greatest possible degree of class involvement. The teacher may have to guide the remarks back to the problem as students wander off.
If a genuine interest develops in an unanticipated direction, the teacher must decide whether to close it off or whether it is worth pursuing. At this stage of the discussion, the teacher should be unobtrusively clarifying the problem, defining new terms, correcting any mistakes or misinterpretations, and helping student to organize and express their ideas. Additionally, the teacher should be stimulating students to reason out the problems, helping them to evaluate what they hear, and suggesting possible class activities as outgrowths of the talk.
If several small group discussions are operating, the teacher can circulate quietly among the groups, guiding the discussions as he/she would with the total group. In addition, the teacher can make periodic summaries of the discussion, and can formulate generalizations applicable to other situations. The teacher may also keep the thinking open by taking the weak side of a question, suggesting an opinion to arouse controversy, or acting as “the devil’s advocate.
” In an office practice class discussion of pay and working conditions, for instance, the teacher may take the position that lower pay for women is justified because of their high turnover and the lesser demands made on them. The purpose of this controversial statement would be to force students to substantiate their contentions to the country. All of this is done from the teacher’s background of knowledge about the subject, but without attempting to force a personal position on the class and without imposing a predetermined solution to the problem.
This kind of openness requires a leader who is free from a drive to determine, who is personally secure and willing to be a follower sometimes, and who can restrain his/her own desire to talk. Some situations may develop in the course of a class discussion that can be difficult to handle. The following list addresses some potential problems and suggests some possible solutions to these problems. • Everyone wants to talk at once. threatening general chaos. —This is usually a sign of high interest and may be controlled by simply holding up a restraining hand, pointing to the next speaker, or acknowledging by a nod.
Sometimes the class will need to be reminded of the rules of common courtesy, but scolding will completely destroy the friendly atmosphere required for good discussion. • No one want so start talking at all. —The teacher can usually solve this by asking a provocative question, or calling on a knowledgeable and articulate student. • One student may want to monopolize the discussion or shout down opposing views. —A reminder that others deserve an equal opportunity to speak may be all that is necessary to control this. In a difficult case, the teacher can quite deliberately fail to recognize the offender.
• Two students may really become angry with each other. —Topics that involve emotional issues, such as personal freedoms vs. loyalty to B23-E205-LAP2C -12- an employer; liberal vs. conservative farm policy, may cause stress. In this situation, the teacher must be very tactful—perhaps diverting the topic to a neutral point, ignoring the combatants, or making light of the problem with a bit of deft humor. As a last resort, the teacher can be arbitrary and quiet the speakers. As the discussion draws to a close, the teacher will want to help the class come to some conclusions.
Sometimes, when the problem is solved, the discussion may close itself. When there is nothing more that can be said, the teacher may close the discussion. When the discussion leads to several solutions (as might well happen if the class has been divided into small groups), the teacher may need to pull it together and help the class to come to some consensus or majority opinion. As a follow-through, the teacher can help students decide if further action should be taken on this subject: Does the class want to invite a speaker from industry to present that viewpoint?
Do we need to change our plans for the course? Should the group get involved in a community project? Finally, the teacher may present an evaluation of the performance of the class in the discussion and suggest ways in which the next discussion session might be improved. The Teacher’s Role in the Panel Discussion The panel discussion, like the total group discussion, involves people talking to each other, presenting their ideas, and perhaps coming to some general agreements. However, in a panel discussion, only a small group of people do the talking, while a larger group listens to what they have to say.
The teacher-leader has less direct inp ut and control of this situation, and more of the responsibility falls on the panel members. In a panel discussion, a few students are selected to discuss specific aspects of the chosen topic. Each member comes well prepared to the panel discussion. The moderator (usually the teacher) introduces the subject and calls or one of the panel to lead off. Other panel members are free to react or ask questions. The moderator guides the direction of the discussion and finally summarizes the principle ideas presented.
Panel discussions allow the presentation of several views on a topic and stimulate the thinking of the audience. However, they are not good for presenting straight information. Problems best suited to the panel format are somewhat controversial in order to advance various points of view for consideration. A panel that just presents facts simply becomes a series of oral reports. The techniques used by the teacher in a guided classroom discussion cannot be used in the same way with a panel discussion. In a group discussion, the preparation and direction is largely controlled by the teacher.
In a panel B23-E205-LAP2C -13- discussion, a group of students plan, prepare, and control the event. The leader of a group discussion (teacher) is the dominant, central figure, but a panel moderator (teacher) may be the quietest member of the panel and does not take the role of the authority or expert. As in other discussion techniques, the selection of the topic is very important. It frequently grows out of class activities, and it should be of immediate concern to students. The teacher can plan for some likely spots in his/her course when use of a panel discussion might be appropriate.
The deciding interest, however, should expressed by the students. The teacher can assist the class in refining the question or problem and can help decide when the issue should come before the class. The following questions illustrate the kinds of topics that are appropriate for panel discussions in vocational education area: • How do the Federal milk pricing policies affect the dairy industry and the consumer? • What should be the goals of the new consumer movement in the United States? • Are the new occupational safety and health codes beneficial to industry…? the industrial worker…? the general public?
In the final statement of the topic, the teacher should be sure that the question is not loaded. He/she should be sure that, indeed, there is room for real discussion and honest differences and that the outcome of the discussion is not predetermined. The panel members can be students who have been chosen by the class to represent the varying points of view, or they may be chosen by the teacher for their particular ability to contribute. A typical panel may be composed of three or four, or as many as eight, members. It is most natural to choose students who are selfconfident and articulate.
The thoughtful teacher, however, should not forget to consider students who, while perhaps less able, nevertheless would personally benefit from the experience of having an equal voice in a class presentation. In some cases, the leader may be chosen by the most able and tolerant person. In other cases, the teacher may well assume the role of panel leader (also referred to as the moderator, or chairman). In this module, it is assumed that the teacher does retain that responsibility. After the panelists have been selected, they can divide the broad topic into subtopics and select them according to personal interest.
The board topic of “How are the changing techniques of steel production going to affect the industry? ” can be broken down into subtopics such as: • What are the new technical processes being installed? • How do these technical change the outlook of the steel industry? • Will foreign trade be influenced by the changes? • What is the reaction of the steelworkers union? B23-E205-LAP2C -14- Each student panel member is expected to prepare thoroughly on the subtopic chosen by him/her, and ideally, every panel member will do at least some preparation in all areas—at least enough to be able to ask questions of each other.
The panel will probably need about a week’s time to prepare, but the discussion itself should never be rehearsed. The panel leader (in this case, the teacher) is the most important member of the panel. He or she directs preplanning activities, assists any member who is having trouble, and takes responsibility for the overall functioning of the group. A wellprepared leader builds discussion outline—usually a series of questions concerning major issues. The questions may never be asked in exactly that form, but the leader can use them to help keep the discussion within the guidelines.
The leader has the responsibility to oversee the panel members’ preparation and performance. Each member needs to get an over view of the whole problem from reading, then study his/her own particular aspect of the problem (e. g. , the present state of affairs, steps that might be taken, and the effects of such action). During the discussion, the members are exchanging ideas among themselves, but they are doing it for the benefit of the class, so they should partially face and talk to each other, and partially to the audience. Prepared speeches are not in order.
The effective panel member (aided by the teacher) will— • make sho rt contributions, not over one minute in length • ask probing questions of the other panelists • follow the discussion of the other panelists • follow the discussion carefully, actually listening to what others have to say • relate remarks to what already has been said • use tact and a friendly approach, and avoid disparaging remarks As the panel opens, the leader offers introductory remarks, states the problem, asks a question of a panel member, or challenges the group. Surprisingly, perhaps, the effective leader usually is the quietest person on the panel.
He/she gently steers the discussion, clarifies concepts, and allows the free flow of ideas. As in the group discussion, the leader may need to control the overly-talkative person, encourage the timid, keep the discussion reasonable and cool, and keep the talk on the topic. One of the more exacting responsibilities of the leader is to provide smooth transitions from one aspect of the problem to another. This can be done by a short summary of the discussion up to that point, and an equally short introduction to the next phase of the discussion. When the panel comes to a close, the leader makes a very brief summary.