In-class discussions can help students develop critical thinking skills, but effective discussions require structure and planning.

Garside, C. (1996). Look who's talking: A comparison of lecture and group discussion teaching strategies in developing critical thinking skills.


Related tips:
Facilitating In-Class Discussions: Facilitating a Coherent Discussion
Facilitating In-Class Discussions: Picking Good Discussion Topics
Facilitating In-Class Discussions: Working with Oversharers

Ask students to raise their hands rather than shouting out contributions to enable you to call on students who contribute less often.


  • When establishing norms for classroom discussions on the first day of class, ask students to raise their hands rather than shouting contributions.
  • Tell students that you’ll wait to see at least a certain number of hands up before calling on anyone.
  • You can call on students who have volunteered, but who typically contribute less often.
  • Explain your reason for employing this technique to students.
  • If you sometimes want them to raise their hands and other times shout shout out the answer, make clear to them when each is appropriate.


  • Faculty expectations for students vary and there is no way for students to know the norm unless it is explicit.
  • This can help ensure that all students have the opportunity to think through a problem you pose before someone says an answer.