Classroom discussions play a critical role in developing students’ thinking and communication skills.1 Discussion is crucial to learning for at least three reasons. First, research has shown that the more we elaborate upon something, the easier that knowledge is to retrieve and use.2 Second, the socio-emotional aspects of discussion are important, as emotion has powerful effects upon learning.3 Finally, discussion is fundamentally "critical" because it demands that one explore one’s own beliefs in order to articulate and contrast them to others’. This exposure "forces the subject to go beyond his current state and strike out in new directions."4 Essentially, discussions can challenge students' ways of thinking.

This module provides information about how to prepare for classroom discussions, lead them, and assess their effectiveness. Information about additional resources to design and facilitate classroom discussions is provided.


(1) Anderson, R. C., Nguyen-Jahiel, K., McNurlen, B., Archodidou, A., Kim, S., Reznitskaya, A., et al. (2001). The snowball phenomenon: Spread of ways of talking and ways of thinking across groups of children. Cognition and Instruction, 19, 1–46.

(2) Svinicki, M.D. (2004) Learning and motivation in the postsecondary classroom. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing

(3) Zull, J.E. (2002). The art of changing the brain: Enriching the practice of teaching by exploring the biology of learning. Sterling: Stylus.

(4) Palincsar, A. S. (1998). Social constructivist perspectives on teaching and learning. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 345-375.