Discussion Statements/alx

From Open Pattern Repository for Online Learning Systems
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Discussion Statements
Contributors Christian Köppe, Michel Portier, René Bakker, Stijn Hoppenbrouwers
Last modification June 6, 2017
Source Köppe, Portier, Bakker, & Hoppenbrouwers (in press 2015)[1]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain

You want to engage students in active, independent thinking on some topic, beyond reproduction of what has been handed to them; you want them to practice tight argumentation and come up with original, solid points of view.


Students often reproduce the opinions or choices as presented by the lecturer or in a book without thinking deeper about it.

Regular lecturing does not provide students with much head-on exercise in thinking for themselves, phrasing their own standpoints, and arguing for them.

But It is also not realistic to expect all students to engage in serious discussions on core topics outside the classroom.


Therefore: Organize group discussions in which a small number of students reacts to some provocative statements given by the teacher, and actively encourage the students to engage in discussion or even debate. Also encourage them to nurture their stronger points of view as fuel for later work (e.g. a research essay or a thesis).

If you want to develop students into independent thinkers, experts and professionals in their field, they have to learn to think for themselves and phrase their standpoints and argue for them. Using discussion statements is a good way of supporting the students with acquiring these skills.

The statements given should allow multiple opinions and they should not be trivial (“the air is blue") or common sense (“we all breath"). The statements should address issues of the lecture domain in order to trigger discussions which are also held by experts in the field. The discussion will be more lively if the statements are provocative or even taking an opposite stance as the majority.

In case all students follow one argumentation then you a s lecturer can provoke a better discussion by taking an opposite stance or asking questions that trigger thinking in a different direction. It is good to combine Discussion Statements (Discussion Statements) with Shot Gun Seminar (Shot Gun Seminar), as selecting the presenting students randomly requires everyone to be prepared.

Sometimes students only give shallow or minimal comments. This can be addressed by having more than one student presenting their thoughts on the same statement, hereby increasing the chance that there will be substantial comments presented. In that case, the ones with shallow or minimal comments will see how others have approached the task in more detail and can learn from this.

This way the students are not only pushed to do some active, original thinking of their own, but to do so seriously and passionately. Most students can very much do with some practice in argumentation, both logically and rhetorically. Kindling and nurturing their ideas may even lead to the beginnings of new research or enterprises. Too often students feel insecure about their own ideas, they need encouragement and practice to speak out their own thoughts more loudly and clearly.

However, there might be students who will have difficulties with expressing an opinion that differs from the lecturer’s one because of cultural or other reasons. In that case it should be emphasized that each individual opinion is good and valuable, even though it might be different from others opinions. This requires a positive attitude during the discussion, but should also be communicated upfront, e.g. when presenting the statements.

It can happen that when students are randomly chosen, that they all have the same opinions and they have don’t have to add much after the first stance or start to repeat the already said. In that case it might be better to ask who of the students has a different opinion and let this student present.

In order to encourage a discussion with a variety of different or even contradicting opinions, one can apply Student Debate (Student Debate).

In a master’s course in the Radboud University curriculum in Information Science, two ’Discussion Lectures’ are regularly planned. Three statements, of a somewhat provocative nature, are mailed to the students some days before the discussion lecture. The statements concern some key, unresolved or debatable issues in the field concerned in the course. Examples are “Visual representation of formal rules is an excellent way of lowering the threshold for business people to create and manage their own business rules" or “As long as organisations have no full control over the formulation and management of their (existing) regulations, large scale introduction and support of business rules should be postponed for those organizations".

All students are told they may be asked to publicly comment on one of the statements, so they have to prepare a stance on each of the statements in advance. During the lecture, three students are asked to stand up and give their comment on a particular statement. This usually takes 1-3 minutes per student. After their initial three comments, group discussion ensues (involving as many students as possible, from all of the class), guided and encouraged by the teacher who acts mostly as a discussion leader. The goal is to enthuse students in coming up with new and possibly ’wild’ or ’rebellious’ ideas in view of the subjects taught in the course. The discussion is allowed to go on as long as it remains sufficiently lively and interesting. The actual length may vary; the teacher decides when it is time to quit. A discussion usually lasts 10-30 minutes. Another statement may be up next. Discussion lectures are much appreciated by the students and are felt by all involved to be a useful preparation to the research essay the students have to write as part of the course examination. Often, topics chosen for the essay originate in the discussion lectures.


  1. Köppe, C., Portier, M., Bakker, R., & Hoppenbrouwers, S. (in press 2015). Lecture Design Patterns: More Interactivity Improvement Patterns. In Proceedings of the 22nd Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP 2015). New York:ACM.