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em Métodos Grupais
Karron G. Lewis, Ph.D.
The discussion method of teaching, according to Wilbert McKeachie (1978) and summarized in the review by Smith (1978) has most often been used when goals of instruction are:
- to stimulate critical thinking;
- to help students formulate and become aware of problems to help students solve problems;
- to develop interest in further learning;
- to encourage students to express and to explore their beliefs; and
- to give the teacher information about how well instructional objectives are being met.
If one decides to use discussion to achieve these goals, how does one assess whether his or her use of discussion has educational merit?
One way of proceeding is to base both the use of discussion and the assessment of discussion on clearly formulated goals. What should your students do, think or feel at the end of the discussion that they couldn't before it began? Should they be better able to state their opinions about some issue? Should they be better able to marshal evidence from the subject matter of the course to support their statements? Should they gain a better appreciation for the abilities of their classmates in solving problems?
Pendergrass and Wood (1976) noted that discussions often have product goals and process goals. The product goal has to do with academic achievement; the product goal may be that students be able to derive testable hypotheses which might explain certain phenomena. The process goal has to do with interpersonal relationships and discussion skills; the process goal may be that students be able to give and accept criticism of their hypotheses.
Once you have formulated some goals for your discussion, think what information you would accept as evidence that each goal has been reached. In the case of product goals, perhaps test items might be written--in the example above, about deriving testable hypotheses, a phenomenon could be demonstrated or described and the students instructed to state a hypothesis which might explain the event and to describe how the hypothesis could be tested.
In the case of process goals, perhaps you would accept students' self-ratings as evidence that they are improving in their discussion skills. Or perhaps, from time to time, you might make a frequency count of criticisms students gave and note how the student receiving the criticism reacted. Comparing these records over time might tell you whether your process goal was being reached. You might, at the end of a discussion period, ask students to react to two or three questions designed to collect evidence about both the product and process goals for the discussion--these would be handed in, not for purposes of grading, but simply to let you know whether your goals are being achieved. This information could also be shared with students to let them know how they, as a class, are doing.
A variety of methods for collecting information could therefore be used, depending on the goals of your discussion and your need for evidence. These range from formal to informal, and from qualitative to quantitative. Examples other than teacher-made tests, checklists, and inventories previously mentioned include standardized tests and inventories, interviews, observations, questionnaires, anecdotal records, and student projects. The key to any of these methods is having clear goals in mind, knowing what information you would find convincing and keeping it simple.
McKeachie, W.J. Teaching Tips: A Guidebook for the Beginning College Teacher. Boston: D. C. Heath and Company, 1978.
Pendergrass, R. A. and Wood, D. Facilitating discussions: skills for teachers and students. The Clearinghouse, 1976, 49, 6, 267-270.
Smith, I.K. Teaching with discussion: a review. Educational Technology, 1978, 18, 11, 40-43.