Whole Group Discussion Pros and Cons

Teacher with Group of Students
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Whole Group Discussion as a Teaching Method

Whole Group Discussion is a modified form of classroom lecture where the focus is shared between the instructor and the students for information transfer. Typically, an instructor will stand before a class and present information for the students to learn but the students will also participate by answering questions and providing examples.

Pros of Whole Group Discussion as a Teaching Method:

  • Whole group discussions provide for greater interaction between teacher and students.
  • Instructors maintain a greater control over what is being taught because they are able to steer the discussion.
  • Auditory learners find them appealing to their learning style.
  • Teachers can check on what students are retaining through questions posed.
  • Whole group discussion is comfortable for many teachers because it is a modified form of lecture.
  • Students have a tendency to stay focused on the lesson because they might be called on to answer questions.
  • Students may feel more comfortable asking questions during whole group discussions.

Cons of Whole Group Discussion as a Teaching Method:

  • Whole group discussions require setting up and enforcing ground rules for students. If these rules are not enforced then there is a possibility that the discussion could quickly go off-topic.
  • Students who are weak in note-taking skills will have trouble understanding what they should remember from group discussions. This is even more so than in lectures in many cases because not only the teacher but fellow students are talking about the lesson.
  • Some students may not feel comfortable being put on the spot during a whole group discussion.

Final Thoughts:

Whole group discussions are an excellent teaching method when used in conjunction with other methods. Instruction should be varied from day to day to help reach the most students possible. Teachers need to provide their students with note taking skills before starting discussions.

It is important that teachers be good at managing and facilitating discussions. Questioning techniques are effective for this. Two questioning techniques that teachers employ is to increase their wait time after questions are asked and to only ask one question at a time.