The thought of having an entire class devoted to “discussion” can seem daunting, especially if you didn’t have elaborate class discussions during high school.
In this article, we provide an overview of discussion classes: what to expect and what’s in it for you. We also share tips for participating in discussion classes: how to prepare before class, what to do in class, and how to wrap it up after class.
OVERVIEW OF DISCUSSION CLASSES
What is a discussion class?
Discussion classes, or sections, are typically a required component of a large lecture class. They offer a time when smaller groups of students (typically less than 30) meet with a graduate student instructor, teaching assistant, or professor to review class content, go over questions, discuss the readings, and do some additional work. Discussion classes also offer an opportunity to connect with classmates about the larger course, which is hard to do in a lecture hall of 200+ students.
What do you do in a discussion class?
Depending on the course you’re in, discussion classes can take different forms. For example, in a science or math course, you’ll likely use discussion class time to complete problem sets. In a liberal arts course like English or political science, you’ll be more likely to use that time to review lectures and discuss the readings.
What your instructor is thinking
From the perspective of your instructor, discussion classes provide an opportunity to discuss and teach, in more detail, the materials that were taught during lecture and assigned in the readings. Discussion sections are designed to provide you and your classmates with a greater understanding of the materials and overall subject of the course.
What’s in it for you
From your perspective, a discussion section is a beneficial time to engage with the course material, gain a better grasp of what you’re studying, and show your instructor you’re on top of it. Discussion section allows the instructor to put a name with your face, which can be invaluable, especially if you are attending office hours or planning on it. Further, it allows you to differentiate yourself in a smaller pool of students. A discussion is only as good as its participants. If students are unprepared, tired, or disinterested, the discussion will suffer. Over time, your instructor will recognize and remember the students who contribute. Whether you’re one of them or not, you’ll see that reflected in the grade you receive at the end of the semester.
Do I have to participate in my discussion class?
Check your syllabus, but participation in your discussion class is almost always factored into your course grade for overall class participation. Discussion is usually taken into account with other things like attendance, turning in assignments on time, and completing online discussion prompts.
HOW DO I PARTICIPATE IN MY DISCUSSION CLASS?
CSO, Propeller Collective