Chapter 4. The Teaching Process

Discussion Method

The discussion method modifies the pure lecture form by using lecture and then discussion to actively integrate the student into the learning process. In the discussion method, the instructor provides a short lecture, no more than 20 minutes in length, which gives basic knowledge to the students. This short lecture is followed by instructor-student and student-student discussion.

This method relies on discussion and the exchange of ideas. Everyone has the opportunity to comment, listen, think, and participate. By being actively engaged in discussing the lecture, students improve their recall and ability to use the information in the future.

It is important for the instructor to play the part of guide, keeping the discussion focused on the subject matter. That may mean the instructor needs to initiate leading questions, referee if the discussions cause conflict, ensure that all students participate, and at the end summarize what has been learned.

Tying the discussion method into the lecture method not only provides active student participation, it also allows students to develop higher order thinking skills (HOTS). The give and take of the discussion method also helps students learn to evaluate ideas, concepts, and principles. When using this method, instructors should keep their own discussion to a minimum since the goal is student participation.

Instructors can also use another form of discussion, the guided discussion method, to ensure the student has correctly received and interpreted subject information.

Guided Discussion Method

The guided discussion method relies on student possession of a level of knowledge about the topic to be discussed, either through reading prior to class or a short lecture to set up the topic to be discussed. This training method employs instructor-guided discussion with the instructor maintaining control of the discussion. It can be used during classroom periods and preflight and postflight briefings. The discussions reflect whatever level of knowledge and experience the students have gained.

The goal of guided discussions is to draw out what the students know. The instructor should remember that the more intense the discussion and the greater the participation, the more effective the learning. All members of the group should follow the discussion. The instructor should treat everyone impartially, encourage questions, exercise patience and tact, and comment on all responses. Sarcasm and/or ridicule should never be used, since they inhibit the spontaneity of the participants. In a guided discussion, the instructor guides the discussion with the goal of reinforcing a learning objective related to the lesson. The instructor acts as a facilitator to encourage discussion between students.

Use of Questions in a Guided Discussion

In the guided discussion, learning is achieved through the skillful use of questions. Questions can be categorized by function and by characteristics. Understanding these distinctions helps the instructor become a more skilled user of questions.

The instructor often uses a question to open up an area for discussion. This is the lead-off question and its purpose is to get the discussion started. After the discussion develops, the instructor may ask a follow-up question to guide the discussion. The reasons for using a follow-up question may vary. The instructor may want a student to explain something more thoroughly, or may need to bring the discussion back to a point from which it has strayed.

In terms of characteristics, questions can be identified as overhead, rhetorical, direct, reverse, and relay. The overhead question is directed to the entire group to stimulate thought and response from each group member. The instructor may use an overhead question to pose the lead-off question. The rhetorical question is similar in nature, because it also spurs group thought. However, the instructor provides the answer to the rhetorical question. Consequently, it is more commonly used in lecturing than in guided discussion.

The instructor who wants to phrase a question for follow-up purposes may choose the overhead type. If, however, a response is desired from a specific individual, a direct question may be asked of that student. A reverse question is a question asked by a learner and the instructor returns the question to the same learner for response. A relay question is asked by a learner and the instructor requests another student to respond.

Questions are so much a part of teaching that they are often taken for granted. Effective use of questions may result in more student learning than any other single technique used by instructors. Instructors should avoid questions that can be answered by short factual statements or yes or no responses and ask open-ended questions that are thought provoking and require more mental activity. Since most aviation training is at the understanding level of learning or higher, questions should require students to grasp concepts, explain similarities and differences, and to infer cause-and-effect relationships. [Figure 4-10]

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