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This article in NSE

  1. Vol. 39 No. 1, p. 84-91
    Received: June 16, 2009

    * Corresponding author(s): soranno@msu.edu
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Improving Student Discussions in Graduate and Undergraduate Courses: Transforming the Discussion Leader

  1. Patricia A. Soranno *a
  1. a Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, 13 Natural Resources Building, Michigan State Univ., East Lansing, MI 48824


Student discussions are a common teaching approach in graduate and advanced undergraduate courses because of their benefits to student learning, and to future professional development for natural resources professionals. However, traditional student-led discussions often are ineffective at meeting course and learning objectives and suffer from many common pitfalls, such as dominance by a few vocal students. I present the “student facilitator approach” to student-led discussions that changes the roles of all students in the discussion classroom, particularly the leader, and provides students clear guidelines about preparing for and participating in classroom discussions. A key feature of the approach is the replacement of the student discussion leader (who has control over both discussion content and process) with a student facilitator (who has control over only the discussion process). Using this approach, I found that students responded very positively, that it tended to encourage student participation, and that it created an environment where students took more ownership of the discussion.

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