Home Good Teaching Virtual Learning Strategy #1: Classroom Discussion

Virtual Learning Strategy #1: Classroom Discussion

by Miguel Guhlin
Source: screenshot of Whiteboard.chat

How would you combine one high-effect size instructional strategy with a digital tool? If it’s a question you’ve asked yourself before, you’re not alone. Several thousand of the educators who have completed the TCEA Remote Learning Educator course have asked themselves the same question. Let’s take a moment to see what teachers had to say about one of the strategies studied: classroom discussion.

Before we do that, let’s revisit high-effect size instructional strategies.

Revisiting Strategies That Work

“We have no right to teach in a way that leads to students gaining less than d=0.40 within a year,” says John Hattie. He asked the question, “What works best in education?” Then he answered it in his ground-breaking study on visible learning. In his study, he found a way of synthesizing various influences that are connected to learning outcomes. The most effective strategies have high effect sizes. Hattie found that the average effect size of all the interventions he studied was 0.40.

This is even more true now during virtual learning. “Now,  it is all about finding the effective ones for remote learning,” says Aimee Maganda. Knowing how an evidence-backed strategy works with a digital tool saves time and effort. As one educator put it:

First of all, I would like to say that this has been a fascinating new concept for me. I am very familiar with instructional strategies and digital tools. This was the first time I actually evaluated how effective a strategy is. That is, how effective it is  in conjunction with a digital tool.

Now, I plan to refer to the chart and take a look at some of the more effective teaching methods. It will also be interesting to see how much bang for your buck you can get with some of the strategies.

For example, I found it very interesting that a flipped classroom scored a 0.58. It takes so much time to plan versus a classroom discussion that scored a 0.82. Classroom discussion doesn’t take as much physical planning as a flipped classroom.

This could help me maximize my planning time and maximize the impact of my instruction.

There are many strategies teachers referenced. I suggested a few in my chart. What was fun to see were the actual examples teachers offered. A top ten list emerged.

Honorable Mentions

Before we explore the top ten list, here are some of the honorable mentions:

  • Deliberate Practice (0.79) with Gimkit.com 
  • Feedback (0.64) with a learning management system (LMS) such as Canvas or Teams
  • Metacognition Strategies (0.58) with Flipgrid
  • Problem-Solving Teaching (0.68) with Minecraft
  • Spaced vs. Massed Practice (0.65)
  • Success Criteria (0.88) with Google Classroom
  • The Modality Effect (0.55) with Wakelet
  • Vocabulary Program (0.63) with Padlet

Remember, you can explore each of the strategies. To do so, go to the Visible Learning Meta X database. Ready to see the top ten list of strategies? Well, you will have to wait for future blog entries to see the complete list. Let’s start with the number one strategy teachers mentioned.

classroom discussion

Strategy #1: Classroom Discussion

“I use classroom discussion to capture what a student has learned for that lesson.  I can see what they knew or didn’t know,” says one teacher. The most popular strategy, classroom discussion, lends itself to teachers’ imaginations. They are able to combine a wide variety of digital tools with classroom discussion.

Classroom discussions make it possible for students to connect with one another. Use this strategy to activate prior knowledge and explore new topics. Students are able to learn from others and show learning. What’s neat about classroom discussion is that it engages students and gives all students the chance to take part.

Did You Know?

On September 26th, from 1:00 to 2:00 PM (EST), attend a Whiteboard.chat webinar to answer questions and showcase features you need to know about. Sign up via Facebook and register for this learning opportunity. This is a free webinar on how to better use the digital whiteboard for remote teaching effectively.

Some Tips on Making Classroom Discussion Work

Consider these tips on making this strategy work best for your students:

  • Before students respond to questions online, have them discuss with a partner. Use a digital whiteboard where students can discuss. Whiteboard.fi and Jamboard allow collaboration.
  • Ask for student interpretations of questions, then clarify their thinking or redirect.
  • Use students’ individual responses as models. Your use of them can deepen further discussion for the whole class.
  • Be strategic about which student voices you amplify.

Let’s consider how some educators are focusing in on classroom discussion.

Examples of Digital Tools

Some of the notable examples included using these technologies:

  • Breakout Rooms: Depending on your platform of choice, teachers use breakout rooms. The use of breakout rooms to organize classroom discussions was popular. Platforms that support breakout rooms include Canvas, Seesaw, Teams, and Zoom. Each does so with varying degrees of success, of course.
  • Flipgrid: “The students can post a video of themselves answering the discussion question. They can watch/reply to other students’ answers,” says one educator. Students could have a question of the day posted on Tuesday and Thursday. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, they respond to the question. Students also view responses from their peers. Flipgrid enjoys popular support, even among second grade teachers. “The kids love to make videos and I can quickly assess if they are understanding the objective.”
  • Google Jamboard: “Students can read what others are saying. Then they can contribute their own thoughts. They can sort elements into a graphic organizer, help each other spell or count … it’s like a digital center’s group!” Combine Jamboard with Zoom to capture student responses in real time. “It’s been fantastic, my students are always excited to ‘jam with each other’,” says an educator.
  • NearPod: “I have used Nearpod for classroom discussions,” said another teacher. Others have learned to use NearPod to support hybrid learning situations. “With Nearpod, I can assign the same lesson as a live lesson and a student-paced lesson with the click of a button. It ensures I continue reinforcing previous concepts, or even creating new ones! Learn how to do this here.

New digital tools create more opportunities for interaction. Some of those new tools include Whiteboard.fi, Whiteboard.chat, and Curioasis .

Final Thoughts

Classroom discussion may be one of the most misunderstood high-effect size strategies. For many, creating engaging classroom discussions for students is a critical component of many lessons. While that is a priority, you also have another goal: to use classroom discussions as a source of data. Then you can use that data to adapt your instruction to better meet the needs of students.

In future blog entries, we’ll explore some of the other popular strategies. These are all strategies TCEA Remote Learning Educator course participants report using daily.

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