Overcoming Blank Stares and Awkward Silences

Creating Vibrant In-class Discussions

The thing I struggle the most with is getting students engaged. A lot of times I deal with silence and blank stares, and when I get students to participate in discussion, it’s usually the same handful of students that I can count on.” Do the words of this UofL instructor resonate with you?

In the 13th edition of McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, Marilla Svinicki and Bill McKeachie note that “the prototypic teaching method for active learning is the discussion” (2011, p. 36). But why is it so challenging to make good classroom discussions happen?

In this interactive “discussion about discussion,” join us as we explore the strengths and limitations of discussion as a teaching approach. We will identify the characteristics of successful classroom discussions and suggest ways for increasing the likelihood that they will happen. We will share resources on how to establish student and faculty discussion roles and responsibilities, and we will problem solve what to do to generate student interest and engagement in this essential active learning technique. The principles of practice will be modeled by both facilitator and participants.

After attending this session, you will be able to:

  • Identify the strengths and limitations of classroom discussion as a teaching approach
  • Identify resources that you can use to establish discussion guidelines, roles, and responsibilities
  • Formulate an action plan for how to effectively respond when a classroom discussion is not working

Session Date

  • 2/26/2014

    Wednesday, 12-2 p.m.
    Delphi Center Lab

    Register Now

Facilitator Bio

Marie Kendall Brown, Ph.D., is assistant director for teaching and learning at the Delphi Center. She joined UofL in 2009. She received her Ph.D. in Higher Education from the University of Michigan. In her current role, she designs and administers programs, services, and events to support faculty professional development with respect to teaching. Her research interests include faculty learning and development, teaching and learning topics in STEM, strategic partnering with academic units, and college student development from a constructive-developmental perspective.

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