Instruction Based on Discussion

Authored by: P. Karen Murphy , Ian A. G. Wilkinson , Anna O. Soter

Handbook of Research on Learning and Instruction

Print publication date:  December  2010
Online publication date:  February  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415804608
eBook ISBN: 9780203839089
Adobe ISBN: 9781136882159


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Discussion is … bringing various beliefs together; shaking one against another and tearing down their rigidity. It is conversation of thoughts; it is dialogue—the mother of dialectic in more than the etymological sense.

(Dewey, 1916, pp. 194–195) Discussion is an integral part of our lived experiences. Whether one is sharing a story with a friend, inquiring with the principal about the school’s discipline policy, or debating the reality of the normal distribution with future researchers, individuals are involved in discussion. Discussions in classrooms are fairly open-ended and collaborative episodes of talk among teachers and students, or among students, for the purpose of fostering student thinking, learning, problem-solving, comprehension, or literary appreciation (Wilkinson, 2009). Broadly conceived, classroom discussions can take many forms including sharing time, content lessons, or even interactions with computers (Cazden & Beck, 2003), and they can involve differing numbers of individuals such as pairs, small groups, or a whole class, with or without a teacher present (Murphy, Wilkinson, & Soter, 2004).

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