Discussion-based classes are an integral part of the learning process. They provide substantial learning tools that benefit many students. While lecture-based classes are good for the learner who likes to process information through listening alone, discussion-based classes have numerous learning benefits for all students.

ENC has the benefit of offering both lecture- and discussion-based classes, and this varied technique is one that can work for different content areas.

For instance, gen eds are designed to teach many students and are thus formatted in a lecture-based way. This ensures that all students are receiving the same content with little room for misinterpretation. In addition, the larger lecture-style classes have the added bonus of requiring hand-outs or PowerPoints to add continuity and structure where discussion-based classes may rely only on the syllabus to guide their learning.

However, as courses become more concentrated in their content, and as they become narrower in their scope of audience, discussion is a suitable and favorable form of learning.

While direct instruction from a professor is a surefire way to ensure that students receive the content, much of the learning process depends on the oral communication piece that discussion classes offer.

On a processing level, the oral process of talking about a piece of information allows students to reorganize what they have heard or read and tell it to others. The common phrase, “You learn something better when you have to teach it to others” is not just a phrase; it’s completely true. Also, if students process information best by listening, they benefit from the person who has to process orally since they can hear and interpret the information given to them.

Secondly, if we are looking at discussion-based classes at a skills level, being able to communicate clearly and effectively is a skill that our generation struggles with. Electronic forms of communication have minimized the face-to-face interactions in our generation. Tactful and succinct intellectual conversation can be quickly cut short if someone does not know how to communicate effectively. If we expect students to look beyond the collegiate realm and towards a career field, they need to be able to have conversations with people. In discussion-based classes, that skill is taught, as well as the skill of interacting with human beings in a non-confrontational and professional way.

Finally, discussion-based classes add a certain level of personal connection and intimacy that we lose in lecture-based classes. This is not to say that all lecture-classes are cold and unfeeling. Lecture-based classes are set up in a way for students to be learning as much as possible from a single source. That is, in a way, putting a wall between student and teacher. Again, not all classes are like this. However, it is easier to build relationships and interact with people once the barrier of lector vs. listener is removed. In discussion-based classes, all students are required to participate and talk. Thus, a certain trust is built in the classroom. This allows students to take conversations outside of the classroom, while simultaneously enhancing the learning that happens within.