The discussion method of learning and teaching was noted to be one of the most effective ways of the learning process where one person could learn from another in a group of two or more people. Furthermore, it is the single most effective way of ensuring that there is learner engagement in the classroom, as well as the engagement of the teacher as the moderator of the discussions in most cases (Meo). The discussion platform was noted to be one of the most effective methods of learning different items of the curriculum especially in schools and institutions of higher education. This is because the students are given an opportunity to express their ideas on certain topics orally and give their take on matters affecting the public. This method of learning also incorporates the listening skills of the other students where the person talking speaks and the others listen and add onto the discussion being raised in turns.
Despite the tendency for this topic not to discuss new ideas, as opposed to brainstorming, this kind of environment provides the learners with a platform to ensure that they can share ideas and invoke problem solving capabilities as well as the inclination to be patient and wait for people to present their take on matters of interest in the academic fields. Research has classified discussions into two main categories: formal and informal (Kochkar). Formal discussions are based on the preparation of groups to discuss matters pertaining to selected themes while informal discussions put their focus on already organized forums of pursuing matters, such as debates and symposia. Focus on the approach used in the classroom is a situation where there is the interchange of ideas and the constant interjection of questions to the communication, which eventually leads to an educative discussion.
Research has equally shown that the participation of students is more active in the smaller group discussions as opposed to class discussions. It is thus advisable that in the use of discussions as a method of learning, the teacher maintained smaller groups to ensure the participation of every member of the group, rather than in the class scenario where some students may not participate.
Teaching Good Listening Skills
As seen above, a good part of the discussion is being able to sit still and listen to the views of others while being patient enough to allow them to give the entirety of their ideas. As such, it is important to ensure that as the teacher, one has equipped the students with the necessary skills to ensure that the discussion forum is active and productive, where one person speaks at a time. Communication is the most important part of the entire discussion process as the aim of the process is to learn. As a result, the ability to teach listening skills becomes paramount in the process if it is indeed going to become fruitful. How one can listen has very much bearing on their effectiveness as a learner, especially where other learners are giving their ideas on a particular subject. This is because there is the possibility that one could learn from another.
Furthermore, the school setting is made so that it is instructional style teaching and learning. It is therefore important to note the central role that the listening skill has on this and appreciate its place in the field of teaching and learning (Way). Listening is one of the skills that enables one to learn through obtaining information from another person, in order to gain understanding of a particular subject, for the purposes of enjoyment and finally to have fun. However, research has pointed out to us that for the period for which we are speaking to people, they are only listening to between 25-50% of what you are saying. As a result, almost always people have not heard half of what you have said to them in ten minutes (Ur). As a result, the listening sector becomes an area of much concern when considering its place in the leaning and teaching, especially in group discussions. Listening skills are taught to students to ensure that they do not zone out when important things are being said by their colleagues.
Elements of small group discussions
Some of the elements of the small group discussion include the size of the group, the shared purpose or goal of the group, interactions between members of the group and influence of the group.
When considering the size of the group, the number of members in a group may vary depending on the purpose of the group and its function. There is no perfect size for the determination of an effective group. Rather, the group members themselves have to have the zeal to ensure that the purposes of their group are met squarely and thus make the group meaningful. Most of the groups are composed of a number of members based on the purpose of the groups. The shared purpose or the common goal of the group is the driver to ensuring that there is a specific direction that the group is heading in. the common focus point of a group is what is going to ensure that it is effective.
The third element of a small group discussion is the interaction between the members. Because the group has a specific purpose and plan for its existence, the nature of this purpose will determine the kind of discussion and interaction that is likely going to happen in the premise of the group. This can be seen in the mood of the discussion, mode and quality of ideas presented in the discussion depending on its formality. Finally, another element is influence. Depending on the purpose and membership of the group, the learners within the group are likely to influence each other because of the flow of information that is present within the group. This flow of information is likely to influence thinking styles of members who were not familiar with such information (Scott).
One of the key concepts is that groups have leaders and learners. When considering these two positions, then there will always be a moderator for a small group discussion and the participants. The point is understanding that each has a role to play in the success and effectiveness of the discussion. For example, a leader can see their role as ensuring that each member of the group has a designated position and role within the group for maximum engagement within the learning process. The member of the group may have their role in ensuring that every new member of the group can be welcomed in the best way possible and giving them the assurance that the group is going to be for their benefit.
Advantages of Small Group Discussions
The small group learning technique has been one of much controversy especially in the academic world because of its approaches. However, some advantages have become apparent with the passage of time and its application in the learning process. One such advantage is the ability of students to have a more complete learning experience. This is because they are able to compare notes with their fellows in the course of the discussion and ensure that they have an all-sided view of the situation in discussion. This promotes the quality of learning in the learning environment.
Furthermore, the learning platform gives students a chance to explain to each other. This ensures that the students constantly have confidence in expressing themselves concerning the concepts that they have learned in the course of their education. As such, the students with the better skills within this platform serve as models (or the leaders of the discussion groups). When the students are discussing very controversial public matters, there is the development of sophisticated thinking skills and abilities to argue and defend their cases. As such, this kind of education is in line with the need for the curriculum to introduce methods of learning that boost creative and critical thinking skills (Univeristy of Texas).
Basics of Small Group Discussions
Brainstorming is a creative technique where members in a group spontaneously give ideas towards the innovative way of doing something. It was a method used for creative problem solving, made popular in the 1930s and developed by scientist Alex Osborn. The main principles for Osborn under this approach was to ensure that there was a reduction in the social inhibitions that caused peoples creativity to wane, an ability to enable an environment where there was free stimulation of active and creative thinking in order achieve a state where there was general increased creativity among group members.
Some of the most interesting arguments that Osborn brought about was that the brainstorming process could depend on quantity of ideas at first rather than quality because the quantity would eventually breed the quality needed. While in this process, it was expected that the ability to criticize had been put aside completely and the brainstorming session was one where there would be free flow of ideas. Wild ideas were thus more than welcome, where some of them could be combined with others in order to make overall good workable ideas (Osborn).
The tutorial approach is where the learner has knowledge transferred to them in a more interactive way as compared to the approach used in a book or a lecture hall. This kind of learning aims to ensure that the learner is engaged by an example rather than the overall approach that is used in the normal learning process. Universities have taken up this approach where a number between 6-8 students are taken under the supervision of a particular professor in the course of their study. It has become a more common form of learning in the recent past where other institutions have taken up this approach of learning.
This is where the discussion, having techniques of learning that are aimed towards the achievement of a specific goal in mind. For example, it is possible that within a class, groups are formed for the sole purpose of finding out how the solar system came into being, or collecting information on how the formation of Foreign Direct Investment occurs. In this particular discussion, there is a goal that is at the end of the discussion after which a task must have been completed. In this approach, the members of the group will have given their takes, but at the end of the discussion have a conclusion based on the fact of what happened.
Role playing is a method of learning where the participants in the group have a mock situation where they are particular actors within a certain field of interest to the discussion. The members of the group will change their behaviors and mannerisms for the sake of expressing the social role of the person who is the subject of discussion (Robinson). The playing of the role in the educational setting becomes an important means of communication because of its ability to teach like a visual aid learning technology. Despite its use for amusement and enjoyment in the majority of the settings, this can be used in the academic setting for the purposes of educating people on certain matters of interest.
A simulation on the other hand is an imitation of the true operation, or the acting out of a situation as if it were happening in the real world. Simulations are important to learners because they give the learner an outlook to what their discussions and results have on the real-life world. The conducting of experiments, for example, can go through a simulation so that the students learning in that particular field can have an idea of what happens when one thing or another is changed. For example, in the case of the germinatio...
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