WesternU E-Learning

Online Training for Faculty and Staff

Class discussions can be utilized in seminar and lecture courses, and their variety allows instructors to fit particular strategies to class needs. This flexibility stems largely from grounding in Vygotskyian social learning theory, which emphasizes knowledge and conceptual gain through peer-to-peer dialogue. Vygotsky understood peers to coexist in the “zone of proximal development,”  where knowledge could be shared and  misconceptions clarified through dialogue (Vygotsky, 1962). Moreover, this kind of semi-public dialogue can also facilitate better oral / speaking skills and human reasoning (Hollander, 2002).

When an instructor effectively facilitates rich discussion in class, their students are more apt to build upon the existing knowledge frameworks they continue to develop, and achieve better learning outcomes. One study suggests that students prefer the intimacy of small group discussion over whole-group discussion (Fox-Cardamone et. al, 2002); instructors should consider group work and other activities that integrate both practices, and evaluate the preferences and needs of their specific classes. (CTL Yale University)