Discussion sections provide opportunities for collaboration and active learning that do not always take place in a traditional lecture context. The role of section goes beyond clearing up any confusion remaining after the course material has been presented in lecture. Section also provides students with the opportunity to manipulate and apply course content, resulting in deeper learning.

GSIs often express concerns about the challenge of balancing “discussion” against “covering the material.” In finding the right balance, remember that applying the concepts to the facts and working through questions and problems together may be a more effective use of time than repeating the lecture or imparting new information. Take some time to think about classroom discussions in which you have participated. What made the discussions successful or unsuccessful?

This section contains a wide range of tips and resources for maximizing student learning in your discussion section. However, several pages in this portion of the Teaching Guide for GSIs provide useful information and strategies for managing discussions in any kind of class. You might also find relevant advice in other sections, such as Pre-Semester Preparation, Grading, Student Writing, Five Ways to Improve Your Teaching, Academic Misconduct, and the Teaching Effectiveness Award Essays written by GSIs.

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