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5. How do I manage a discussion section?

Even though discussion sections are usually less formal than large lecture classes, your role is key to students’ success. It is important that you take the time to prepare for discussion sections, get to know your students, and keep them engaged with the course material. Participating in a discussion can be an exciting and challenging way for students to develop skills to articulate their thoughts, to test their ideas in a public setting, and to evaluate the comments of others. Here are some tips for effectively planning and leading discussion sections.

Hear what students have to say about discussion TA’s.


Discussion Objectives

Discussion Techniques

Building Rapport


Encouraging Individual Student Participation


Cooperative Learning


Strategies for Facilitating Group Participation

 

 

Discussion Objectives

Discussion Techniques
In general, it is useful to develop a questioning strategy for any discussion section. The following three-step strategy might be used:

  1. Ask recall and comprehension questions to make sure that the students have grasped the basic data or concepts.
  2. Ask questions requiring students to explain relationships among units of information and to form general concepts.
  3. Ask questions that require students to apply principles and concepts they have developed to new data and different situations. (Return to top)

Building Rapport
Here are a few strategies for building rapport with the students in your class:

Encouraging Individual Student Participation
Here are some basic hints to encourage student participation in discussion:

Cooperative Learning
The benefits of using cooperative learning include increased student participation, student-led discussions, and activity-based learning. It requires the use of a structure or procedure for students to interact with the information and each other. Many cooperative learning structures are applicable to a wide variety of content areas. While students learn how to operate in cooperative learning environments, familiar or introductory material is preferred. Once the structure is familiar, they can tackle challenging material. In addition to exams, projects may be used to assess cooperative learning assignments. (Return to top)

Strategies for Facilitating Group Participation
Here are some hints for encouraging participation in groups:

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