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Three types of discussion


Through recitation, teachers 1) find out what students know about a topic, concept, idea, problem or issue and 2) build upon what students know so that students share a small body of knowledge for some further task. The emphasis is on recalling and comprehending information.

Recitations are highly structured through the leadership role of the teacher.  They are characterized by the format: teacher question – student response – teacher reaction. Teacher pausing, or wait time, is used only to a limited extent.

Guided discussion

Through guided discussion, teachers help students apply an idea or analyze a topic, concept, idea, problem or issue in order to reach generally accepted conclusions. The emphasis is on higher-level understanding including comparing, interpreting, translating, explaining, generalizing, inferring and concluding.

Guided discussions are usually less structured than recitations, but teacher questions still serve as the basis for discussion. Teachers' wait time after asking questions and after students’ responses provides opportunities for students to think.

Responses from several students to a teacher question are more frequent. Thus, the amount of teacher talk is less than in recitation, with students being encouraged to assume some responsibility for the direction of the interaction.

Open-ended discussion

In open-ended discussions, teachers do not try to lead students to predetermined ends. Rather, they try to help students build upon and extend the solid knowledge and understanding that they have developed through recitations and guided discussions. The teacher wants the students to synthesize and evaluate information, opinions and ideas. Students engage in more divergent, critical or creative thinking that includes constructing hypotheses, devising plans, predicting outcomes, solving life-like problems, judging ideas and actions, choosing among alternatives and making decisions.
To promote open-ended discussions, teachers employ wait time, follow-up questions and statements to encourage clarification or elaboration of terms and ideas. They support multiple points of view.

Students necessarily assume more responsibility for interaction during open-ended discussions; and, as a result, student talk should predominate. Students may also interact with one another because their ideas and opinions matter.