|Improving Student Achievement in Mathematics (IAE - IBE - UNESCO, 2000, 48 p.)|
Whole-class discussion following individual and group work improves student achievement.
Research suggests that whole-class discussion can be effective when it is used for sharing and explaining the variety of solutions by which individual students have solved problems. It allows students to see the many ways of examining a situation and the variety of appropriate and acceptable solutions.
Wood found that whole-class discussion works best when discussion expectations are clearly understood. Students should be expected to evaluate each others ideas and reasoning in ways that are not critical of the sharer. This helps to create an environment in which students feel comfortable sharing ideas and discussing each others methods and reasoning. Furthermore, students should be expected to be active listeners who participate in the discussion and feel a sense of responsibility for each others understanding.
Cognitive research suggests that conceptual change and progression of thought result from the mental processes involved in the resolution of conflict and contradiction. Thus, confusion and conflict during whole-class discussion have considerable potential for increasing student learning when carefully managed by the teacher. As students address challenges to their methods, they strengthen their understanding of concepts and procedures by working together to resolve differences in thinking or confusions in reasoning. In a sense, the discussion becomes a collaborative problem-solving effort. Each individual then is contributing to the total outcome of the problem-solving situation. This discussion helps produce the notion of commonly held knowledge (public knowledge).
In the classroom
It is important that whole-class discussion follow student work on problem-solving activities. The discussion should be a summary of individual work in which key ideas are brought to the surface. This can be accomplished through students presenting and discussing their individual solution methods, or through other methods of achieving closure that are led by the teacher, the students, or both.
Whole-class discussion can also be an effective diagnostic tool for determining the depth of student understanding and identifying misconceptions. Teachers can identify areas of difficulty for particular students, as well as ascertain areas of student success or progress.
Whole-class discussion can be an effective and useful instructional practice. Some of the instructional opportunities offered in whole-class discussion do not occur in small group or individual settings. Thus, whole-class discussion has an important place in the classroom together with other instructional practices.
References: Ball, 1993; Cobb et al., 1992; Wood, 1999.