The official website of educator & arts patron Jack C Richards

How should I manage a discussion class?


Submitted by Nafas from Iran

How should I manage a discussion class, in an intermediate level?

Dr Richards responds:

Approaches to teaching discussion skills centre on addressing the following issues :

Choosing topics: Topics may be chosen by students or assigned by the teacher. Both options offer different possibilities for student involvement.
• Forming groups: Small groups of four to five allow for more active participation, and care is needed to establish groups of compatible participants. For some tasks, roles may be assigned (e.g. group leader, note-taker, observer).
Preparing for discussions: Before groups are assigned a task, it may be necessary to review background knowledge, assign information-gathering tasks (e.g. watching a video) and teach some of the specific ways students can present a viewpoint, interrupt, disagree politely, etc.
Giving guidelines: The parameters for the discussion should be clear so that students are clear how long the discussion will last, what the expected outcomes are, roles of participants, expectations for student input and acceptable styles of interaction.
Evaluating discussions: Both the teacher and the students can be involved in reflection on discussions. The teacher may want to focus on the amount and quality of input from participants and give suggestions for improvement. Some review of language used may be useful at this point. Students may comment on their own performance and difficulties they experienced and give suggestions for future discussions.