Comparing the Benefits of Small-Group and Large-Class Discussions
19 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 21 Aug 2009
Date Written: 2009
A large literature on teaching and learning heralds the benefits of discussion for student learner outcomes, especially its ability to improve students’ critical thinking skills. Yet, there are few studies that compare the effects of different types of face-to-face discussions. Using student surveys, we analyze the benefits of small-group and large-class discussions in an upper-level political theory course. We also analyze whether the same types of students are likely to participate, and reap the benefits of, both types of discussions. We find that overall, participation is higher in small-group discussions, as are students’ perceptions of learner outcomes. We also find a more equal participation of students of different ethnic backgrounds in small-group discussions.
Keywords: teaching, learning, discussions, active learning, small-group discussions
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