Tag Archives: class discussion


Strategies for Encouraging Effective Student Discussions

If you’re not already following Jennifer Gonzalez’ site, Cult of Pegadogy, I strongly recommend that you start doing so. Gonzalez regularly publishes useful posts that provide specific advice for the classroom, from K-16 and beyond.

A recent post that caught my eye — “5 Ways College Teachers Can Improve Their Instruction” — was no exception, featuring an interview with author and teacher Norman Eng. One of the recommendations is especially interesting to me: “Implement ‘Cold Calling’ and ‘No Op…


3 Tips for Handling Discussions in Online Courses

I’ve been teaching a large online class for the first time this semester, and as the course involves looking at a number of challenge interactive works and games I put a lot of emphasis on discussion forums and critical debate. However, discussion forums of this kind present a lot of potential problems in an online class. We only have to read the comments anywhere on the web (pro tip: don’t actually read the comments) to see that the online medium offers huge potential for miscommunication, per…


Using Google Docs to Check In On Students’ Reading

Picture of House of LeavesLast semester I taught my favorite book, Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. With nightly reading assignments that take three to four hours, I expect students to fall behind. So I wasn’t surprised when, a few days in, I asked if everyone had done all the reading and the majority of the class avoided looking at me. Such are the occupational hazards of teaching.

We’re only a few weeks into the semester, but experience shows that it’s never too early for students to get behind in their reading…


The Simplicity of ‘Think-Pair-Share’

In many courses, class discussion is a central part of student learning. Whether you’re using the Socratic method or aiming for something much more freeform, getting your students to voice their (sometimes not fully-formed) thoughts can be an especially effective way of engaging active learning.

What do you do if your students are reluctant to talk? Erin wrote a great post early last year with specific suggestions for addressing this situation. What if only a few students actually participate in…


The Pikme App for Class Discussions

Raised hands

ProfHacker has frequently featured tips about learning student names, and about facilitating class discussion. Today, I wanted to highlight an app, Pikme, that speaks to both of these concerns. What’s more, Pikme is an app developed by a professor at Rowan University, Smitesh Bakrania, and his mechanical engineering students, Ryan Sikorski and Mike Goldberg.

Pikme lets you create up to five classes of students. Currently, the only way to add students into a class is by hand, although the app d…


How Thumbs Can Facilitate Discussion in the Classroom

I’m teaching a writing class this summer, and I recently stumbled upon an effective method for encouraging students to discuss each others’ drafts. It involves their thumbs. Allow me to explain . . .

Because our schedule is pretty compressed, each student is writing a number of short assignments per week. Each assignment comes with very specific instructions and a fairly detailed rubric for evaluation. On Monday, for example, we might discuss the conventions for writing a one-page report about a…


Modeling Civility and Use of Evidence in the Classroom

Political Compass A few days ago, Nels wrote a post titled “Leading Effective Classroom Discussions on Controversial Issues.” In this post, I’d like to talk about some of the same kinds of concerns, from the perspective of someone who teaches Political Science and writing.

Each fall, I teach two sections (one a four-credit, writing intensive section, the other a standard three-credit, non-writing-intensive section) of a 100-level course titled “Political Issues.” We cover a wide range of topics, from the use of…


Leading Effective Classroom Discussions on Controversial Issues

Dark Elegy at Syracuse University

A few weeks ago, I walked to my university’s library to pick up a copy of Tanya Horeck’s Public Rape: Representing Violation in Fiction and Film that had been sent to me through interlibrary loan. As the student worker brought the book over to me, she glanced from the book’s title to me and back again. When I handed her my ID, she looked at my name and said, “Oh, you teach Gender Studies, don’t you? I’ve heard of you.” It’s true that I have a bit of a reputation on my campus. Last year, …


Silence is Golden . . .

. . . unless you are trying to run a classroom discussion, in which case silence can be counterproductive, discouraging, frustrating–in short, deadly. I learned about how to deal with the silent classroom, as I tend to learn most things, the hard way.

My college has a four-week intercession in January. There are a lot of great opportunities for faculty and students during this term: study-travel, interdisciplinary team-teaching, special-topics courses, field trips . . . it’s almost an embarrassm…