Excellence in Teaching Program Teaching Tip Topic: Eight Discussion Triggers Overview: Awareness of complexity and enhanced understanding results when learners discuss the meaning of events with each other. But to be successful, groups need a common experience to draw them into participation, establish a personal connection with the content, and provide a shared referent from which to exemplify their ideas. There are many kinds of triggers but all are designed to precede group discussion. Participants, therefore, become connected with both a concrete example of the content and each other.
- Short Readings: Brief assignments to read in class (especially effective are contrasting viewpoints).
- First Person Experience: Works written in a personal voice, autobiographies, biographies, oral histories, diaries, and memoirs, when used as counterpoints to abstract texts, bridge the gap between their own lives and the content under study. Students more readily take part in discussions when they can personally relate to the material.
- Individual Task with Review: Problems to solve that apply the concepts presented. Students complete a worksheet or other task and compare the results with their neighbors before the whole class discusses the answers.
- Self-assessment Questionnaires: Short surveys of learner attitudes and values.
- Total Group Response: Human Graph: Learners literally take a stand on an imaginary graph or continuum. The first few volunteers justify their choice of position, and then the remainder of the class joins them without comment.
- Case Studies: A case study is the factual account of human experience centered in a problem or issue faced by a person, group or organization. It can raise a variety of complex issues and stimulate discussions of alternative viewpoints. Typically, case studies are written objectively and include a brief overview of the situation, its context, and the major decisions that must be made. Rather than expecting learners to have a right answer, learners develop their ability to articulate their thoughts, frame problems, generate solutions, and evolve principles that may apply to other situations.
- Visual Studies: Seeing first hand creates a common ground. Photographic essays, video programs, and personally made video recordings are examples of ways to bring into the classroom direct depictions of the concepts being discussed.
- Role Play: Learners explore human relations problems by enacting problem situations and then discussing the enactments. Together learners can explore feelings, attitudes, values, and problem solving strategies. It attempts to help individuals find personal meaning within their social world and resolve personal dilemmas with the assistance of the social group.
Source: A Brief Summary of the Best Practices in Teaching, compiled by Tom Drummond.