Discussion Based Teaching and Learning

Classroom discussion as a teaching method is seen as a non-hierarchical verbal interaction among a group on a specified topic with a purpose. Unlike lectures, Socratic teaching with the case method, or student recitation- each hierarchical-and tightly controlled by the professor, good discussion provides an active learning role for students, requires involvement, and discourages passive spectating and observation. Discussion encourages students to bring their informed opinions and feelings, requires listening and learning from one another and helps hone oral advocacy and other skills in the study of law.

Discussion provides immediate feedback to the teacher about the level of student interest and learning. During a lecture, a professor must rely on student questions and other cues to determine if the lecture is effective. During a Socratic dialogue, the teacher tacitly assumes that the knowledge and skill displayed by the student being questioned is representative of the class. During a discussion, more student participation and a more frequent opportunity for the professor to probe responses allows a better assessment of levels of student performance.

For the professor there is an inevitable loss of control, a definite inefficiency in covering information and there are risks that a great discussion will not be produced. However, the possibility of producing a higher level of thinking and spontaneous and respectful student interactions attracts many professors. Some teachers provide the class with the next discussion question at the end of the previous class. Others use the discussion feature of their web pages. This allows in both cases reflective learners to digest the topic so that they can effectively participate in the discussion. As observed frequently, the best professors attempt to respect and accommodate different learning styles and often employ several teaching methodologies in class.