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The Dreaded Discussion Ten Ways to Start Peter Frederick The only privilege a student had that was worth his claiming was that of talking to the professor and the professor was bound to encourage it His only difficulty on that side was to get them to talk at all He had to devise schemes to find what they were thinking about and induce them to risk criticism from their fellows The Education of Henry Adams The conspiracy of silence is breaking up we are learning to talk more openly about our joys and fears as teachers our achievements and frustrations in the classroom As I have listened to my colleagues talk about their students and their classrooms the one fear and frustration mentioned more than any other as for Henry Adams was in leading a discussion No matter how many articles on technique we read or workshops we attend the dreaded discussion continues to bother us more than any other part of our daily teaching lives Freshman seminar and discussion based core programs continue to develop Pressures not only to do more discussion but to do it well reinforced by student evaluations and faculty development centers do not go away We are learning alas that to walk into class and hold up one s copy of the assigned text asking How d you like it does not necessarily guarantee an enthusiastic rewarding discussion We need first of all to acknowledge our fears in facing discussion classes The terror of silences the related challenges of the shy and dominant student the overly long dialogue between ourself and one combative student the problems of digression and transitions student fear of criticism and our own fear of having to say I don t know Worst of all perhaps is the embarrassment of realizing usually in retrospect that about half way through the period I lapsed again into lecture I suspect that our fears about discussion and our lapses have a great deal to do with the issue of who controls the classroom Although psychologically rooted the control issue is best dealt

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