Comparing the Benefits of Small-Group and Large-Class Discussions
19 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2010
Date Written: January 29, 2010
A large literature has established the benefits of discussions for stimulating student engagement and critical thinking skills. However, we know considerably less about the effect of the discussion environment on student learning. In this study, we assess student perceptions concerning the benefits of discussions in an upper-level political theory class. We compare how students evaluated discussions in the large class environment, in small discussion face-to-face discussion groups, and in online discussion groups. Overall, small discussion groups elicited the highest student satisfaction and fared best in critical thinking skills, while online discussions provided the best forum to express thoughts. While not favored by students, all-class discussions also provided significant benefits to students.
Keywords: discussion, online learning, active learning
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