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Managing Discussions

This a discussion-based course, and depending on class size and disposition this can be a challenge for instructors - especially in STEM fields where this type of course may be unfamiliar to the instructor. Here are some helpful tips for managing these discussions.

Class size

Depending on the size of your class, frequent all-class discussions may be both time-prohibitive and disenfranchising to students uncomfortable speaking out in larger groups. Consider these alternative approaches (or use a combination of them depending on your goals for that discussion):
  • Small group discussion first (groups of 2-3), then entire group discussion
    • Each group reports back what they discussed
  • Individual reflections, then group discussion
    • Each student takes 3-5 minutes to write on a notecard (not to be collected)
    • [Optional] Small group discussion
    • Entire group discussion

The choice of these, or an entire group discussion, will depend on the size of your group, the number of instructors/experienced mentors, and the amount of time available.

Staying on track

When using small group or individual discussions, consider providing the students with all the prompts at the beginning so they can work through them at their pace. 

When using entire group discussions, consider providing one prompt at a time to allow the students to drive the discussion forward. Try not to rush through the prompts, while being mindful of time. Often students will naturally come around to discussing the next prompt without your intervention. If they do get sidetracked, or have spent too much time on a single topic, then prompt them to move on to the next topic.