In Talking in Class: Using Discussion to Enhance Teaching and Learning, Professor Larry Johannessen offers a quiz based on research (Nystrand, et al., 1997). Take the following quiz to see if your answers are correct (answers offered at the bottom / Don’t Look!!!).

Authentic Discussion in Classrooms: A Quiz

1// How much discussion takes place on average in 8th grade classrooms per class period?

a) a little over 15 minutes

b) about 6 minutes

c) less than 15 seconds

d) about 50 seconds

2// How much small-group work (discussion) takes place on average in 8th grade classrooms per class period?

a) about 30 seconds

b) less than 15 seconds

c) about 6 minutes

d) a little over 15 minutes

3// How much discussion takes place on average in 9th grade classrooms per class period?

a) a little over 17 minutes

b) about 7 minutes

c) less than 15 seconds

d) about 1 minute

4// How much small-group work (discussion) takes place on average in 9th grade classrooms per class period?

a) a little over 2 minutes

b) less than 15 seconds

c) about 7 minutes

d) a little over 17 minutes

(Answers to quiz: 1. (d) about 50 seconds, 2. (a) about 30 seconds, 3. (c) less than 15 seconds, 4. (a) a little over 2 minutes)

How did your answers match up with the research by Nystrand and presented by Johannessen? Are the answers disturbing? Since the research method by Nystrand there has been a slight increase in the amount of discourse in classrooms, but not nearly enough. A few teachers that I know and have observed point to the fact that they have added more discussion, deliberation, or debate to their curricula. But, the research further indicates that there is a large difference between teaching BY discussion, and teaching FOR discussion.

Findings presented by Dr. Johannessen include the following:

  • Discussion rarely occurs
  • Discussion is important to learning
  • Discussion is tied to achievement
  • Discussion is especially important for “language minority students”
  • Teaching discussion is not easy
  • Teaching and facilitating discussion involves skills that require practice and development

Talking in Class: Using Discussion to Enhance Teaching and Learning. A presentation to the National Council of Teachers of English (2006)

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