Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

Discussion Methods

Discussion methods are a variety of forums for open-ended, collaborative exchange of ideas among a teacher and students or among students for the purpose of furthering students thinking, learning, problem solving, understanding, or literary appreciation. Participants present multiple points of view, respond to the ideas of others, and reflect on their own ideas in an effort to build their knowledge, understanding, or interpretation of the matter at hand.

Discussions may occur among members of a dyad, small group, or whole class and be teacher-led or student-led. They frequently involve discussion of a written text, though discussion can also focus on a problem, issue, or topic that has its basis in a “text” in the larger sense of the term (e.g., a discipline, the media, a societal norm). Other terms for discussions used for pedagogical purposes are instructional conversations (Tharp & Gallimore, 1988) and substantive conversations (Newmann, 1990).

A defining feature of discussion is that students have considerable agency in the construction of knowledge, understanding, or interpretation. In other words, they have considerable “interpretive authority” for evaluating the plausibility or validity of participants responses. 

Source: ASHA Education