SIP 2.3 Class Discussions

Thirsty for Strong Instructional Practice?

Photo of four college students having a discussion in a classroom.Class discussions in which every student participates are a dream for faculty—and sometimes merely a fantasy. We may assume that students who are quiet during discussions are unprepared or disengaged, but another very likely explanation is that they are simply introverted. Many studies put the percentage of introverts in the general population at 30-40%.

Some of our classroom expectations and policies may be geared toward rewarding extroverted behavior and penalizing introverted behavior. For example, the classic way to grade class participation is to award points for speaking in class discussions; this puts introverts at a disadvantage.

Take a SIP of This: Class Discussions

Here are some ideas for creating avenues for introverts to participate in class:

  • Before a whole-class discussion, have students work in pairs or small groups to share thoughts. Even if an introvert doesn’t end up sharing in the whole-class discussion, he or she will likely feel more comfortable sharing in the smaller setting, getting the benefit of talking through ideas and giving his or her peers the benefit of hearing his or her ideas.
  • After small group discussions, ask for volunteers to share something interesting that a peer said to them. This allows more extroverted class members to give voice to ideas from their more introverted peers.
  • Give students the option of writing down questions or comments on index cards to be read by the instructor.
  • If you are technologically inclined, consider having a class Twitter hashtag. Introverted students may prefer to tweet their thoughts.
  • Using the discussion board in Blackboard for discussions before class gives everyone a chance to share ideas. Then you can begin class discussions by asking people to highlight comments that stood out to them on the discussion board.

Still Thirsty? Take Another SIP of Class Discussion

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