Faculty Focus: Tips for Encouraging Student Participation in Classroom Discussions

icon for Tips for Encouraging Student Participation In Classroom Discussions

This Faculty Focus Special Report puts together some of the best articles from the Teaching Professor newsletter on the topic of student participation and classroom discussion.  The following articles are included in the report.

  1. Assessing Class Participation: One Useful Strategy
  2. Participation Blues from the Student Perspective
  3. Roll the Dice and Students Participate
  4. Those Students Who Participate Too Much
  5. Teaching How to Question: Participation Rubrics.
  6. Student Recommendations for Encouraging Participation
  7. Is There a Place for Games in the College Classroom?
  8. Discouraging Over Participators
  9. Putting the Participation Puzzle Together
  10. To Call On or Not to Call On: That Continues to Be the Question
  11. Creating a Class Participation Rubric
  12.  It Costs to Cut Class

The pdf of the report is available here.

Socratic Questions that Probe Reasons and Evidence

Socrates Bust Sketch

Questions that Probe Reasons and Evidence

Questions of Clarification

  • What do you mean by ____?
  • What is your main point?
  • How does _____ relate to _____?
  • Could you put that another way?
  • Is your basic point _____ or _____?
  • What do you think is the main issue here?
  • Let me see if I understand you; do you mean _____ or _____?
  • How does this relate to our problem/discussion/issue?
  • What do you, Mike, mean by this remark? What do you take Mike to mean by his remark?
  • Jane, can you summarize in your own words what Richard said? . . . Richard, is this what you meant?
  • Could you give me an example?
  • Would this be an example, . . .?
  • Could you explain this further?
  • Would you say more about that?
  • Why do you say that?

Questions that Probe Assumptions

  • What are you assuming?
  • What is Jenny assuming?
  • What could we assume instead?
  • You seem to be assuming _____. Do I understand you correctly?
  • All of your reasoning depends on the idea that _____. Why have you based your reasoning on _____ instead of _____?
  • You seem to be assuming _____. How do you justify taking that for granted?
  • Is that always the case? Why do you think the assumption holds here?
  • Why would someone make that assumption?

Questions that Probe Reasons and Evidence

  • What would be an example?
  • How do you know?
  • Why do you think that is true?
  • Do you have any evidence for that?
  • What difference does that make?
  • What are your reasons for saying that?
  • What other information do you need?
  • Could you explain your reasons to us?
  • Are these reasons adequate?
  • Why do you say that?
  • What led you to that belief?
  • How does that apply to this case?
  • What would change your mind?
  • But, is that good evidence for that belief?
  • Is there a reason to doubt that evidence?
  • Who is in a position to know that is true?
  • What would you say to someone who said that ____?
  •  Can someone else give evidence to support that view?
  • By what reasoning did you come to that conclusion?
  • How could we find out if that is true?

Questions about Viewpoints or Perspectives

  • What are you implying by that?  (The term “imply” will require clarification when used with younger students.)
  • When you say _____, are you implying _____?
  • But, if that happened, what else would happen as a result? Why?
  • What effect would that have?
  • Would that necessarily happen or only possibly/probably happen?
  • What is an alternative?
  • If _____ and _____ are the case, then what might also be true?
  • If we say that ____ is ethical, how about _____?

Questions that Probe Implications and Consequences

  • How can we find out?
  • What does this question assume?
  • Would _____ ask this question differently?
  • How could someone settle this question?
  • Can we break this question down at all?
  • Is this question clear? Do we understand it?
  • Is this question easy or hard to answer? Why?
  • Does this question ask us to evaluate something? What?
  • Do we all agree that this is the question?
  • To answer this question, what other questions must we answer first?
  • I’m not sure I understand how you are interpreting this question. Is this the same as _____?
  • How would _____ state the issue?
  • Why is this issue important?
  • Is this the most important question, or is there an underlying question that is really the issue?

Questions about the Question

This list is from a tutorial at Fermi Lab.  The webpage is available here: http://ed.fnal.gov/trc_new/tutorial/taxonomy.html

The table on the Fermi page listed above was adapted from Paul, Richard. Critical Thinking: How to Prepare Students for a Rapidly Changing World, 1993.

Lyons, Orchestrating More Effective Classroom Discussions (TOTW #28)

This is a post from the “Tip of the Week” series by Richard Lyons which is no longer available, although it is archived on Internet Archive’s Way Back Machine. Below this is a link to the full original tip at Internet Archive. 

Orchestrating More Effective Classroom Discussions

While many instructors inherently realize the potential value of classroom discussions, they often fail to orchestrate them in a way that students’ minds are effectively engaged in course learning objectives. Just to refresh our approach to this critical tool, classroom discussions potentially enable students to:

  • Apply information delivered through instructor-directed methodologies such as lecture, video presentation, and guest speakers
  • Evaluate the validity of their previously held beliefs
  • Analyze the perspectives of their increasingly diverse classmates
  • Synthesize concepts learning in other environments
  • Evaluate the evidence and logic of others against their own beliefs.
  • Obtain feedback from their professor and peers for their insights.
  • Gain motivation for further study of issues brought into the discussion. Continue reading

Infographic – 5 Simple Questions

This infographic was based on a post at edutopia.org by Rebecca Alber.  The post was about 5 simple questions you can you can ask students that will are strategic and not just well designed.  She says they will “lead students to questions of their own.”

The 5 questions are:

  1. What do you think?
  2. Why do you think that?
  3. How do you know this?
  4. Can you tell me more?
  5. What questions do you still have?

five simple questions infograhic

Faculty Focus: Classroom Discussion

Faculty Focus posted an entry to their blog about classroom discussions to address the following scenario:

In the typical college classroom a small handful of students make the vast majority of comments. As a teacher you want to create a classroom environment that helps students of various learning styles and personalities to feel comfortable enough to contribute as well as understand the importance of class preparation and active participation. To reach this goal requires a constant balancing act of encouraging quiet, reflective students to speak up and, occasionally, asking the most active contributors to hold back from commenting in order to give others a chance.

Faculty Focus asked members of its LinkedIn group to post their strategies for engaging students through classroom discussion.  They posted some excerpts from their members to the blog.

The full post, with member excerpts, is available here.

Toledo, “Does Your Dog Bite?”

Cheri A. Toledo, “‘Does your dog bite?’ Creating Good Questions for Online Discussions.” In International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, vol. 18, no. 2 (2006): 150-154.

Abstract: One of the challenges of asynchronous online discussions is soliciting student responses that involve critical thinking. Too often students answer one another with “I agree” or “That’s what I think” and the discussion dead ends. By providing students with models of good questioning techniques instructors will see the class discussion take on new depth. This article provides online course facilitators with an approach to questioning that can deepen student interactions in asynchronous discussions.

The article is available here: http://www.isetl.org/ijtlhe/pdf/IJTLHE85.pdf

Or, here: IJTLHE85