Do you ever struggle to engage your students in meaningful dialogue? If so, you’re not alone. Many teachers face this challenge daily. One way to help overcome this obstacle is by using discussion prompts. This blog post will discuss the benefits of using discussion prompts and provide examples of how to use them in your classroom. After reading this post, we hope you’ll be inspired to try out some discussion prompts with your students!
Get Them to Talk About Their Different Viewpoints of the World
- How do you feel about the world?
- Is the world a better place than it was 50 years ago? Why or why not?
- How do you imagine the world will be in 50 years?
- What’re the biggest challenges facing humanity today? Do you think we can do anything about them?
- How can we improve the environment, so it’s safe for future generations?
- What makes your country unique or different from other countries in the world?
- Do you believe in global warming and climate change? Why or why not?
- Why do you think some people prefer to live in rural areas and others in cities?
- What’re the positive and negative aspects of technology in our lives today?
- How can we use technology to make the world a better place?
- How has technology changed the way we interact with each other in society today compared to when our parents were our age?
- Do you think a robot can be more human than a human? If so, why or why not?
- Do you think we should be responsible for taking care of the planet? If yes, why? If not, why not?
- What do you think of “social justice” or “social equality”?
- Should we all be required to vote in elections? Why or why not?
- Should people convicted of a crime be allowed to vote when released from prison? Why or why not?
- Is it possible for us to live without money?
- How would you define what makes a society successful? What factors do you think contribute to a successful society?
- Should there be limits on the number of children a person can have at one time (e.g., no more than three children per family)? Why or why not?
- If you could host a dinner party with any three people from history, who’d you choose? And why?
Start a Class Discussion About Social Values
- How do you define a social value?
- What’re your values?
- What do you think is important in life?
- What do you stand for?
- How do you express your values?
- Are there values you don’t believe in? Why not?
- What’re the most important things you should consider when making a decision?
- Do you’ve any personal ideals that you live by? If so, what’re they, and why are they important to you?
- How do we decide what’s right and wrong? Does it matter where we come from or what our culture is like when considering something like this?
- Do you think people should always be honest?
- What does respect mean?
- How does your culture influence your views on social values?
- What’re some examples of social values in your life? Are they different from what you were taught as a child? If so, why?
- Has technology made us more aware of other cultures worldwide, or has it made us less aware? Why do you think that’s? What can we do as a society to bridge this gap between cultures and build bridges instead of walls?
- What’re the differences between “right” and “wrong” regarding societal values?
- Is there such a thing as absolute truth regarding social values, or is it relative to each situation? Why or why not?
- What’re some examples of conflicts between moral beliefs and social values? Are there any that you’d like to discuss in more detail?
- What’re some examples of conflicts between ethical beliefs and social values? Are there any that you’d like to discuss in more detail?
- Does one person’s opinion on a topic carry more weight than another’s because they have more personal experience or authority than the other? Why or why not?
- Do you think social values change over time? If so, how would you describe this change?
Ask Them Some Discussion Questions About Education
- What’s the most important thing about being a student?
- Do you think everyone should go to college?
- What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned this semester?
- How do you think your college experience will affect your future career?
- Should students have more freedom in their higher education?
- What makes a good student?
- What do you think makes a good teacher?
- Do you think technology has changed the way we teach?
- Do you think students should take a course on critical thinking?
- Should students be allowed to use cell phones and other devices during class? Why or why not?
- What do you think about the increasing use of technology in the classroom?
- Are standardized tests useful or not useful in measuring student academic achievement? Give examples of both sides of your argument, and then explain why you agree on this issue.
- Is an education a guarantee of a job? Or does getting a job to depend on more than just a degree?
- Could exams be more fun?
- How does your educational experience differ from your parents?
- What role should universities play in society?
- Do you think our education system should focus more on skill development or training a well-rounded person?
- What would it be if you could change one thing about how your college is run?
- Do you think students need more guidance on effectively managing their time while in college? Why or why not?
- What are the most important skills students should learn in college today?
Engage Them in a Meaningful Discussion About Well-Being
- What’s your definition of well-being?
- Do you think well-being is a state or a process?
- Why is it important for students to be well?
- Are there activities or habits that help you feel better?
- What do you think is the most important factor in well-being?
- What do you think is the best way to achieve well-being?
- Do you feel your college promotes your well-being? If not, what would you like to see happen to improve well-being at your college?
- How can we ensure that young people are empowered to take charge of their mental health?
- What resources would you like to have available on campus (e.g., staff training, workshops, etc.) to promote student and staff wellness at your college/organization?
- What’re some of the causes of stress that you’ve experienced?
- How can we reduce stress for students and faculty?
- Do you think students should be required to attend counseling if they struggle with mental health issues? Why or why not?
- What is the biggest threat to well-being in our society today?
- How can we create a culture of well-being in our society?
- What can each individual do to ensure their well-being, regardless of their circumstances?
- How can we ensure that all people have access to quality health care, regardless of their socioeconomic status or skin color?
- Should schools play a role in promoting the well-being of their students? Why or why not?
- What’s the difference between contentment, happiness, and balanced life?
- Do you think different types of happiness (beyond “feeling good”) should be considered when it comes to well-being? If so, what’re they?
- What would it be if you could give your younger self one piece of advice?
Encourage Their Critical Thinking
- What do you think it means to “think critically”?
- How would you define the importance of critical thinking in your life?
- Are there situations where you think critical thinking is important but not always possible? Why or why not?
- How can you apply critical thinking skills in your everyday life?
- When you’ve to make a difficult decision, do you decide based on what’s right or what feels right?
- Have you ever been in a situation where you had to make a decision that could have serious consequences? How did you go about making the decision?
- When you compare and contrast the protagonist and the antagonist, do you find important differences between them?
- What’s the difference between critical thinking and critical analysis?
- How can you tell if a critique is valid or invalid?
- Are there rules you should follow when criticizing others?
- What’re some ways to encourage constructive criticism?
- Do you agree with Freud that we’re all controlled by our unconscious drives?
- What do you think of the idea that people are good?
- What does it mean to be a citizen of the world?
- Do you think it’s possible to live in a world without war, poverty, and ignorance? If so, how would we make that happen?
- What’s the best way to get out of an unpleasant situation?
- When should you apologize to someone who’s hurt you?
- What role does evidence play in forming our beliefs and opinions? What’s an example where evidence played a big role in forming your opinion?
- How can you tell someone has made a good argument in a discussion?
- If you could give one piece of advice to all college freshmen today, what would it be and why?
Ask Them a Specific Question About Their Career
- How do you define success?
- What does your ideal work environment look like?
- What’re your goals for your career?
- What’re your strengths and weaknesses?
- What’s the best way to find a job?
- How do you balance work and life?
- Do you think you should have a plan B if your current career doesn’t work out? Why or why not?
- How important is networking when finding a job with a company or organization that interests you?
- Do you see yourself as a leader or a follower? And why?
- Do you think leaders are born or made in business?
- Why is it important for a company to have good leadership at the top?
- What qualities do you think make a good leader?
- What do you think about the idea that companies should focus on diversity instead of experience and skills when hiring?
- Do you think there’s such a thing as the “right way” to do things in business? If so, which one is it, and why do you think it works best?
- Do you think it’s more important to have a degree or experience when applying for a job?
- Do you think it’s important to have a mentor at work? Why or why not?
- What do you think about using social media at work?
- What’re the biggest challenges facing young professionals today? How can we solve them together?
- Who inspires you the most in your life and why?
- Should students be required to work?
Make Them Think Differently by Encouraging Their Creativity
- What does “creative” mean to you personally?
- Is it possible to be creative without being an artist?
- Is creativity useful only in certain professions?
- Do you think creativity is something we’re born with or develop?
- Is creative thinking something that can be learned?
- How can you tell if someone is creative or not?
- Why do some people find it hard to be creative while others find it easier? Is something in their biology (or environment) predisposing them to think creatively?
- What is the biggest barrier to creativity in today’s world?
- Do you think it’s more important for individuals or organizations to foster creativity? And why?
- What’re some of the most creative things people have done in your country’s history? What motivated them to do those things?
- What motivates people today to be creative and innovative?
- What influence does your culture have on your ideas about creativity?
- What does it mean when something is “original”? How can we tell if something is original or not?
- What do you think is the best way to get inspired?
- Are there situations where it’s better not to be creative?
- Has the internet helped or hindered creativity in the world?
- Has technology affected the creative side of our world (e.g. architecture, music, etc.)? What would the world look like without technology?
- Is there a connection between creativity and intelligence?
- Who do you consider the most creative person and why?
- If you could create anything you wanted, what would you create?
A Good Way to Start a Discussion
One of the best ways to start a discussion is to ask a question. Discussion questions can get people talking about something or learning more about the topic. A specific question is also good because it’s a simple question that gets people to think more deeply about their answers, which gives you a deeper understanding of their observation on the topic.
As a Teacher, One of the Things You Want to Do Is Make Sure Your Students Are Engaged
First, you need to grab their attention and start a good conversation. You can introduce the topic interestingly or ask them a question they may not have thought of. Once they’re paying attention, you can ask them what they think about the topic and why it’s important. If necessary, you can remind them of important facts, so they’ve more context for their opinions – but don’t overdo it!
The Challenge of Engaging Students in Discussion
Getting students to express their opinions around other people’s tables can be difficult. They may feel intimidated by others or afraid to say the wrong thing.
Here are some things you can do to make your students feel more comfortable:
Make Sure the Environment Is Safe and Supportive
The best way to do this is to model these behaviors yourself. If you’re friendly, warm, and welcoming, they’ll find it easier to trust that they can share their thoughts without being judged or embarrassed. Encourage them by asking questions about themselves and showing interest in what they say.
Give Them Time to Think About the Topic Before You Ask for Their Opinion
This helps them mentally prepare for what comes next so they don’t feel like they’re being ambushed with a new topic that’s nothing to do with what was discussed before (which can be awkward).
Don’t Pressure Them if They Aren’t Ready to Answer Yet – Give Them Space Until They’re Ready!
You may even want to give them a few minutes before continuing with the discussion so they can process what was said.
How to Tell if the Discussion Is Going Well
The challenge of engaging students in a discussion is often difficult. Many factors can affect whether or not your discussion is successful. But you can always make sure you know where the discussion stands.
If your class is struggling to engage, here are a few questions you can ask to determine if the discussion is going well:
- Do they seem engaged?
- Do they understand what we’re discussing?
- Are they asking questions?
- Can I tell they’re interested in what we’re talking about?
Is It Important That Everyone in the Group Agrees With Everything Said During a Discussion?
We’d all get along, agree, and move forward as a cohesive unit in a perfect world. Unfortunately, however, we don’t live in a perfect world. Sometimes other people have different opinions than you do, and sometimes those opinions affect how much you enjoy working with them.
When leading a discussion as part of your class or team project, it’s important that everyone feels heard and valued. You should encourage people to voice their opinions even if they don’t agree with yours – you never know when someone else’s input will help you see things in a new way.
Ways to Avoid a Conflict During a Discussion
When you’re leading a discussion, it’s easy to get caught up in multiple viewpoints with your students in the heat of the moment. While it’s important to stand up for your beliefs, there are better ways than getting into a heated conversation.
Here are some tips on how you can avoid arguments:
- Be clear about what you expect from students’ responses. Do you want them to express their opinions? Do you want them to share their experiences? Do you want them to think critically about a topic? If so, make sure this is clear from the beginning.
- Make sure students know they can share their thoughts without fear of judgment – even if what they’ve to say is controversial or unpopular. You need this assurance when asking a question that some people may find difficult to answer.
- Don’t put words in their mouths and assume everyone thinks like you. When asking questions that require an opinion, phrase them as open-ended questions rather than yes/no questions; this way, you can ensure that everyone has the opportunity to contribute their thoughts during the discussion.
If someone becomes more agitated than usual during the class discussion (e.g., because they raise their voice or speak louder than usual), simply stop and give them a moment to calm down before continuing with the lesson.
It’s important not to let students’ emotions get the best of them – if they feel attacked or belittled in any way, they’re likely to get defensive and cut off communication rather than listen and learn from each other’s ideas.
Topics That Are More Likely to Cause an Argument Than Others
When you start a discussion prompt, developing a discussion topic that will engage your students in the conversation is important. Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to know which topics are most likely to lead to an argument.
Here are some of the most common topics that can lead to arguments in class:
- Politics: The topic of politics is always a hot potato, so you should only bring it up if you’re sure your students are on the same page. This can be especially difficult if you’re teaching in a country where your students come from different political backgrounds.
- Religion: You don’t want to offend anyone by asking about their religious beliefs, so it’s best not to ask this specific question, if possible. If that’s not possible, try asking questions about how religion has influenced the culture and society of their country or region rather than asking directly about their beliefs. Check first if the topic is accepted in your college or university.
- Gender: many people are comfortable talking about gender regarding feminism or LGBTQ rights, but others are uncomfortable talking about gender. This can lead to arguments because people aren’t always aware that there are people who might be uncomfortable talking about these topics.
Face-to-Face vs. Online Discussion
Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Real-life discussions are great for getting students talking, but sometimes it can be difficult for them to focus on the conversation if they’re distracted by their surroundings.
An Online discussion has the advantage of reaching more student groups at once – but they also have the disadvantage of being easier to miss. If you don’t make sure to email or otherwise remind students of an upcoming online discussion, they might forget about it altogether!
So what’s right for your classroom? That depends on what kind of environment you want to create in your classroom.
- Do you want everyone focused on the discussion at hand? Then maybe you should try an in-person meeting.
- Or do you want as many people as possible to participate in a discussion? Then an online discussion forum where you can use an online discussion board or discussion thread might be better for you! You can also have an asynchronous discussion where students can choose when to participate.
Student Participation Also Depends on Each Individual
Even if you have a lot of experience with conversation starters, a meaningful discussion doesn’t always get off the ground because it depends on each student’s participation, character traits, and personal experiences. Whether a small group or a large one, each group has its way of interacting.