Discussion
 
Teaching Using Discussion  
Communication Skills for Leading Discussion  
Leading Discussions: Ten Approaches  
   

Communication Skills for Leading Discussion
Adapted from Borgen, W.; D. Pollard; N. Amundson & M. Westwood. Employment Groups: The Counseling Connection, University of British Columbia, 1989.
   
  Attending Summarizing
  Paraphrasing Linking
  Clarifying Supporting
  Empathy Blocking

  Attending
       
    Instructor’s Roles  
       
 
  • Be aware of verbal as well as the non-verbal behavior of the students.
  • Moderate interaction and encouraging students to talk.
  • Allow for silence.
  • Observe classroom dynamics & decide the direction the discussion should take.
 
       
   
Examples
       
   
"I am aware that everyone has suddenly gotten very quiet. Any questions about the group projects?"
       
   
Practice Stems
       
    "I am aware..."    
    "I notice..."
   
       
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  Paraphrasing  
       
    Instructor's Roles  
       
   
Put others’ words into your own to communicate that you are attempting to understand what they are saying.
 
       
    Examples  
       
   
"Felix, what I am hearing you say is that there doesn't seem to be enough time to juggle your research, classes and your teaching responsibilities. You sound overwhelmed by it all."
 
       
    Practice Stems  
       
    “What I hear you saying..."
"As you see it...."
"From your point of view..."
"From where you stand..."
"I think you are saying..."
 
       
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  Clarifying  
       
    Instructor's Roles  
       
   
Use clarification to demonstrate that you are listening and that you consider what the student is saying to be important even if you are unsure of what they are trying to say.
 
       
    Examples  
       
   
"Let me see if I understand you correctly: while on the one hand you believe that issues of diversity are important to acknowledge, you find it difficult to bring such topics up for discussion."
 
       
    Practice Stems  
       
    "Let me see if I understand you correctly..."
"I am still unclear; can you tell me more about..."
 
       
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  Empathy  
       
    Instructor's Roles  
       
   
Accurate understanding of the student's point of view requires taking into account his/her thoughts, experiences, behaviors, and feelings.
 
       
    Examples  
       
   
"You sound frustrated because your grades just don't indicate the hard work that you are putting into this course."
 
       
    Practice Stems  
       
    "You're... (identify the feeling, i.e. sad, excited, disappointed)"
"You feel...because..."
 
       
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  Summarizing  
       
    Instructor's Roles  
       
   

Summarize in order to pull together important aspects of a discussion and help organize and integrate information.

When you find you have lost track of the discussion or need to bring it back to the topic, summarize.

Keep note of the key points raised in the discussion and at the end summarize.

Keep notes of the students whose ideas have been mentioned to add to students' self esteem.

Have students summarize. In case no one volunteers, you can do it.

When debriefing in small groups, don't wait until one group has finished presenting all of its material; have each group present one or two points and then move on. This keeps the discussion moving around the whole class and keeps students alert and interested.

 
       
    Examples  
       
   
"As a way of bringing closure to this discussion on ethics in teaching, who would like to summarize what we have been talking about?"
 
       
    Practice Stems  
       
    "What I am hearing from the class is..."
"To summarize the key points..."
 
       
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  Linking  
       
    Instructor's Roles  
       
   

Linking together differences and similarities in ideas, opinions, and beliefs is another form of summarizing.

Linking demonstrates that other students also share similar ideas and that differences of opinions are valued.

 
       
    Examples  
       
   
"While Josie and Leana believe that interactive techniques are useful, Jack, Wendy and Carter are of the opinion that the lecture is still the best method for teaching. The rest of the class is still undecided."
 
       
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  Supporting  
       
    Instructor's Roles  
       
   

Encouraging and supporting students in their efforts in the class helps to promote an atmosphere of trust and frankness.

Get into the habit of using strength confrontation. Focus on what the student is already doing well and shift to what needs improvement.

Build on competency. This adds to the students' self-esteem, lessens anxiety and allows students to build upon little successes.

 
       
    Examples  
       
   
"Julina, on your last paper, I had made suggestions on ways to strengthen your next assignment. I was very pleased to read your second paper and noticed that you had made significant progress. Good for you."
 
       
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  Blocking  
       
    Instructor's Roles  
       
   

Blocking is used to prevent undesirable, inappropriate or unethical behavior during discussions.

Set the ground rules for the class by establishing clear expectations and have the class add to the list. Including the class in the decision making process communicates that their opinions are valued. Examples to include are: start and finish on time; do original work; do ask questions; inappropriate comments and behaviors will not be tolerated; take responsibility for your own learning; everybody participates; and respect differences of opinion.

 
     
    Examples  
       
   
"Ava, Jai, and Sydney obviously have some strong feelings about gun control. We may not all agree on this particular issue so I ask you to exercise tolerance for differences of opinion. I would like to give everyone a chance to express their opinions so I request that you do not interrupt while someone else is speaking."
 
       
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