Classroom Discussion Strategies During Challenging Times
Many times, courses have some controversial topics that need to be studied as a part of the syllabus. Other times, you might have to take classes during an overall challenging time, like the pandemic, an ongoing political scenario, etc. In such times, it's natural to have an awkward air in the classroom, especially when the students have different opinions. So, as a teacher, you can opt for specific classroom discussion strategies to maintain a pleasant atmosphere during challenging times.
Controversy Isn't Exactly A Bad Thing.
Before you start talking about anything, you must understand, and press on the notion that controversies are not always negative. Two people can have different perspectives, and both of them can be correct in their own ways. Discussing such topics should only broaden your mind and increase your knowledge. Thus, controversies don't always have to be taken as an argument; they can be healthy discussions as well, which is how it should be in a classroom.
Establish A Clear Structure
One of the intellectual classroom discussion strategies is to establish a framework before you begin any discussion. Students should know why you are having this conversation with them in the first place. Knowing these particular objectives prevents them from straying from the topic or getting into an unnecessary argument. These objectives could include:
- Gain knowledge for academic purposes
- Raising awareness
- Understanding different perspectives
- Developing a different, more intellectual approach
- Applying different analytical strategies
- Improving communication skills
- Increase knowledge on a particular topic
- Working on debating skills
From time to time, remind yourself to be more open-minded. Prepare yourself for the difference in opinions and counterarguments. Not all students will agree with you or each other, and you should be prepared for such situations. In such incidences, make sure you are as broad-minded as you possibly can be and take their opinions maturely without any judgment. Pay special attention to yourself and make sure you are not biased. Keenly observe your own behavior towards students who disagree with you. As a teacher, your attitude should be fair, equal, and reasonable with everyone.
Take Into Account The Sources Of Student Views
One of the best classroom discussion strategies is to identify the source of knowledge and opinion. Students might have different perspectives and beliefs because of their family, religious backgrounds, or cultural influence. So, understanding where their knowledge and opinion is coming from can help you and the students understand each other's perspective better.
Set Rules For The Discussion
Controversial discussions can quickly get out of hand so setting up some rules is essential. Before the debate formally begins, make sure you announce these rules to the class. They could include:
- Ensuring respectable behavior throughout the discussion
- Allowing criticism on ideas and not the speaker
- Giving equal time for every student to speak
- Permitting no offensive language or cursing whatsoever
- Avoiding making personal remarks or targeting an individual's personality
Setting a particular disciplinary action for rule-breaking also helps make sure everyone behaves. If you notice someone getting out of line, be firm and remind them of the rules. Make sure you appropriately put them back in their place but don't be harsh. You don't want students to be upset at you. You just want to remind them of what's off-limits.
Be Candid About The Subject Matter
Students love when teachers are transparent with them. Be straightforward and honest with your class; tell the students that this upcoming conversation will be new, awkward, challenging, etc. Give them a quick disclaimer along with the objectives and rules discussed above. Keep this one high up in your classroom discussion strategies because the more candid you are, the easier it will be to manage the classroom. The students will be more mentally prepared and less shy. Thus, it'll help you get the discussion started.
Get Feedback And Iterate
Once the argument is over, ask your students for feedback. This feedback could be verbal or written anonymously. Based on this data, reflect upon your strategies. Did they work? How did the students feel, and what do you think went wrong? Change your classroom discussion strategies if you feel they're not working. Improve them, refine them, and implement them.
Distract With Activities
When things start to heat up or feel like the students are getting stressed about the ongoing troubles, it's a good idea to distract them with something engaging. Online tools like KeyboardingOnline can help distract their minds and keep them physically and mentally engaged. Plus, while having a little fun, they're improving their typing skills, so it's a win-win! Incorporate more games and healthy, fun activities during lectures to keep the atmosphere light. It'll not only manage the class in tough times, but it'll also give you some time to relax as well.