Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms
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More About This Title Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms


1999 Critics' Choice Selection of the American Educational Studies Association

In this guide to planning, conducting, and evaluating lively discussions, authors Stephen Brookfield and Stephen Preskill offer a variety of practical ideas, tools, and techniques for creating democratic classrooms. They suggest exercises to get discussion started, strategies for maintaining its momentum, ways to elicit a diversity of views and voices, ideas for creative groupings and formats, and processes to encourage student participation. In exploring the role of the teacher in discussion, they address the tensions and possibilities arising from ethnic, cultural, social class, and gAnder differences. Throughout the book, the authors emphasize how discussion fosters democratic participation and enhances learning. Additionally, they review how to balance the voices of students and teachers, while still preserving the moral, political, and pedagogic integrity of discussion.

From the early stages of preparing students to participate in discussion to the final stages of evaluating its meaning and effects, the authors provide a comprehensive guide to realizing the promises--and avoiding the pitfalls--of this way of teaching. Each chapter contains numerous techniques, suggestions, and applications that can be adapted to a wide range of discussion settings. Sample exercises and formats are provided throughout, including case studies of successful practices. Discussion as a Way of Teaching is an accessible, practical resource for teachers, trainers, faculty, administrators, professional developers, facilitators, and other educational leaders. It will be useful to anyone who uses discussion to help people learn.


STEPHEN D. BROOKFIELD is Distinguished Professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. Prior to moving to Minnesota, he was professor in the department of higher and adult education at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he is still adjunct professor. A three-time winner of the Cyril O. Houle World Award for Literature in Adult Education, he also serves as consultant to the adult education doctoral program at National Louis University in Chicago. STEPHEN PRESKILL is associate professor of education and director of the Division of Educational Leadership and Organizational Learning at the University of New Mexico. His main research has focused on the history of American educational reform, biographies of educational leaders, and educating for democracy.


Discussion in a Democratic Society.

How Discussion Helps Learning and Enlivens Classrooms.

Preparing for Discussion.

Getting Discussion Started.

Keeping Discussion Going through Questioning, Listening, and Responding.

Keeping Discussion Going through Creative Grouping.

Discussion in Culturally Diverse Classrooms.

Discussion across GAnder Differences, written with Eleni Roulis.

Keeping Students' Voices in Balance.

Keeping Teachers' Voices in Balance.

Evaluating Discussion.


"Stimulating good discussions is often one of the more difficult tasks of teaching. In this book, Brookfield and Preskill offer a wealth of information and strategies for improving dialogues in the classroom. I found the teacher- and student-centered tone of the book refreshing and the connections drawn between democratic education and discussion methods quite meaningful." (Mary Deane Sorcinelli, associate provost and director, Center for Teaching, University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

"Discussion as a Way of Teaching addresses an important, often underutilized pedagogical approach—the discussion method. The book is a practical and valuable resource for all faculty seeking to improve their teaching and create more learner-centered teaching environments." (Jodi Levine, director of first-year programs, Temple University)

"It would be hard for anyone to read this book and not And up with a large number of ideas about how to use discussion in the classroom. Even experienced readers are likely to be challenged in some of their own assumptions." (David Boud, professor of adult education, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia)

"This book provides an excellent overview of how to cultivate and nurture democratic dispositions and discussion habits in students. Each chapter provides adaptable, practical, and clearly articulated strategies that both novice and experienced teachers can use." (Gary Cale, associate professor of language and literature, Jackson Community College)

"Getting discussion started, keeping it going, attention to cultural and gAnder issues are but a few of the chapter headings. Practical, but grounded in theory and sound educational philosophy, this is a very useful volume." (Ted Bowman, editor, Reader's Corner)