Students offer insights into successful class discussions

Class discussions are a major part of learning. Junior Abby Smith said, “They are important because it allows you to take the time to understand what your peers may be thinking. They can also help you find new ways of thinking that might help you have a deeper understanding of the class work.”

Despite recognizing the importance of group discussions, participation is still an issue among students. According to junior Elene Kodanashvili, two reasons why students do not participate in class discussions are fear of judgment and not feeling safe in the classroom environment. 

“Usually, when I don’t participate in class discussions, I do so because of my fear of being judged, but sometimes I get scared of being cut off or not heard in a more rapid discussion and hesitate to the point that my question or statement is no longer relevant to the conversation,” she said. 

As the semester progresses, junior Thalia Gonzalez said it becomes apparent which students are going to share their ideas more often. This can deter other students from adding their points of view when they know that someone else might say it instead. 

Gonzalez said, “There are a lot of classes I’ve been in where students are allowed to blurt out answers even though when expectations were being addressed, the class was told to raise their hand, etc. By students just blurting out answers, I feel like I don’t have a chance to say anything, which also causes my participation to decrease.”

For more success with discussions, Kodanashvili said teachers can seek out answers from quieter students. “Sometimes, teachers make sure to call on people who haven’t spoken regarding a topic or even elicit responses by asking questions to students who haven’t yet participated,” Kodanashvili said. 

Gonzalez said, “Maintaining a somewhat quiet classroom” is another key to establishing fruitful conversations.

In addition, Smith said using smaller groups is another solution. “When I recognize people, I am more willing to discuss than when I’m with a group of strangers.”

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