Guided Discussion Method
The guided discussion method relies on student possession of a level of knowledge about the topic to be discussed, either through reading prior to class or a short lecture to set up the topic to be discussed. This training method employs instructor-guided discussion with the instructor maintaining control of the discussion. It can be used during classroom periods and preflight and postflight briefings. The discussions reflect whatever level of knowledge and experience the students have gained.
The goal of guided discussions is to draw out what the students know. The instructor should remember that the more intense the discussion and the greater the participation, the more effective the learning. All members of the group should follow the discussion. The instructor should treat everyone impartially, encourage questions, exercise patience and tact, and comment on all responses. Sarcasm and/or ridicule should never be used, since they inhibit the spontaneity of the participants. In a guided discussion, the instructor guides the discussion with the goal of reinforcing a learning objective related to the lesson. The instructor acts as a facilitator to encourage discussion between students.
Use of Questions in a Guided Discussion
In the guided discussion, learning is achieved through the skillful use of questions. Questions can be categorized by function and by characteristics. Understanding these distinctions helps the instructor become a more skilled user of questions.
The instructor often uses a question to open up an area for discussion. This is the lead-off question and its purpose is to get the discussion started. After the discussion develops, the instructor may ask a follow-up question to guide the discussion. The reasons for using a follow-up question may vary. The instructor may want a student to explain something more thoroughly, or may need to bring the discussion back to a point from which it has strayed.
In terms of characteristics, questions can be identified as overhead, rhetorical, direct, reverse, and relay. The overhead question is directed to the entire group to stimulate thought and response from each group member. The instructor may use an overhead question to pose the lead-off question. The rhetorical question is similar in nature, because it also spurs group thought. However, the instructor provides the answer to the rhetorical question. Consequently, it is more commonly used in lecturing than in guided discussion.
The instructor who wants to phrase a question for follow-up purposes may choose the overhead type. If, however, a response is desired from a specific individual, a direct question may be asked of that student. A reverse question is a question asked by a learner and the instructor returns the question to the same learner for response. A relay question is asked by a learner and the instructor requests another student to respond.
Questions are so much a part of teaching that they are often taken for granted. Effective use of questions may result in more student learning than any other single technique used by instructors. Instructors should avoid questions that can be answered by short factual statements or yes or no responses and ask open-ended questions that are thought provoking and require more mental activity. Since most aviation training is at the understanding level of learning or higher, questions should require students to grasp concepts, explain similarities and differences, and to infer cause-and-effect relationships. [Figure 4-10]
Planning a Guided Discussion
Planning a guided discussion is similar to planning a lecture. Instructors will find the following suggestions helpful in planning a discussion lesson. (Note that these same suggestions include many that are appropriate for planning cooperative learning, to be discussed later in this category.)
- Select a topic the students can profitably discuss. Unless the students have some knowledge to exchange with each other, they cannot reach the desired learning outcomes by the discussion method. If necessary, make assignments that give the students an adequate background for discussing the lesson topic.
- Establish a specific lesson objective with desired learning outcomes. Through discussion, the students develop an understanding of the subject by sharing knowledge, experiences, and backgrounds. Consequently, the objective normally is stated at the understanding level of learning. The desired learning outcomes should stem from the objective.
- Conduct adequate research to become familiar with the topic. While researching, the instructor should always be alert for ideas on the best way to tailor a lesson for a particular group of students. Similarly, the instructor can prepare the prediscussion assignment more effectively while conducting research for the classroom period. During this research process, the instructor should also earmark reading material that appears to be especially appropriate as background material for students. Such material should be well organized and based on fundamentals.
- Organize the main and subordinate points of the lesson in a logical sequence. The guided discussion has three main parts: introduction, discussion, and conclusion. The introduction consists of three elements: attention, motivation, and overview. In the discussion, the instructor should be certain that the main points discussed build logically with the objective. The conclusion consists of the summary of the main points. By organizing in this manner, the instructor phrases the questions to help the students obtain a firm grasp of the subject matter and to minimize the possibility of a rambling discussion.
- Plan at least one lead-off question for each desired learning outcome. In preparing questions, the instructor should remember that the purpose is to stimulate discussion, not merely to get answers. Lead-off questions should usually begin with how or why. For example, it is better to ask “Why does an aircraft normally require a longer takeoff run at Denver than at New Orleans?” instead of “Would you expect an aircraft to require a longer takeoff run at Denver or at New Orleans?” Students can answer the second question by merely saying “Denver,” but the first question is likely to start a discussion of air density, engine efficiency, and the effect of temperature on performance.