Discussion-based classes engage students and promote learning

by Rebekah Breese

While preparing to attend Whitworth last year, my dad informed me that the first two years would feel like “high school on steroids.” He meant that I would probably take more required general education classes than courses pertaining to my major. Many of these classes cover subjects that I learned about in high school.

I agree that most of the general education classes I have taken felt like “high school on steroids.” The lectures are straightforward and dry.

However, I have taken some courses that far exceed any high school course I took. The professors presented these courses, some general education and some not, in a discussion-based form.

The difference with these classes is that they engage students and ask them to consider the importance of information. The professors typically ask the students why: “Why do you think that way?”, “Why is it like this?”, “Why is it important that we know this?,” etc. The question of “why” requires me to think about subjects with more depth. We feel encouraged to truly understand a concept rather than having someone provide us with facts.

Discussion-based classes distinguish college courses from high school classes. Allowing a room of intelligent people to talk through a particular topic and challenge one another’s opinion drastically differs from attentively listening to a long lecture.

In a discussion-based class, you have to converse with your professor as well as your classmates. I enjoy this aspect of these classes. With a mix of people comes a plethora of opinions. Though some of your peers may agree with you, some likely do not.

These differences in opinion create interesting and stimulating conversations and often lead to discussion topics the professor did not plan. Students are invited to voice differing opinions in a discussion. Sometimes, a classmate will present a viewpoint that challenges my own position.

Discussion-based classes have greater benefits than lecture courses because they require the student to think critically. People do not feel the need to express themselves in lectures because they know the professor will eventually provide them with all the information they need.

Class discussions, however, invite students to share their ideas. It allows them to learn effectively as students are challenged by their professors and their peers.

Since we make up the next generation of businessmen and businesswomen, artists, writers, scientists, teachers, doctors, etc., should we not start interacting with one another and sharing our ideas? In the workforce and in the real world, we must communicate with one another. It is valuable to get that experience now in the classroom on topics that may or may not interest us.

Of course, we need lectures because we they provide us with knowledge and help guide our conversations. However, we do not need professors to  simply lecture information. Rather, we need them to ask us “why?” and encourage us to turn those questions into engaging conversations with people.

Contact Rebekah Breese at rbreese16@my.whitworth.edu

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