The guided discussion is one of the most effective methods used for Bible study lessons. It is also one of the most challenging to use. Some discussions are spontaneous based on a point brought up in class. This guide deals primarily with planned discussions but are relevant to spontaneous events.
Prepare for the Discussion
- Plan for the discussion. Have a lesson plan that outlines goals and desired learning outcomes, key points, and planned questions/follow-on questions. Include anticipated and desired responses to your questions.
- Allow enough time for the presentation. Since the method involves student participation, more time must be allowed. This means you must also limit the number of topics or key points covered in the class.
- Help students prepare. Let students know ahead of time, as appropriate. Assign any reading or viewing of support materials, including note guides or other handouts prior to class so students come to the class informed and ready to discuss. Also have students prepare questions before class that they may have related to the materials.
Starting the Discussion
- Inform students that it is a discussion class and encourage questions and responses.
- Inform students of the desired goals and learning outcomes.
- Ensure students have note-taking guides or handouts as appropriate.
- Inform students of any rules for the discussion. This includes good manners, no personal attacks, and, if appropriate, confidentiality.
- Use an ice breaker to get students discussing. It might be a presentation of a problem, a relevant story or example, a short video or other graphic presentation.
Guiding the Discussion
- Keep the discussion focused. If unrelated questions come up, consider answering them after the period, or during a follow-on class.
- Stay aware of the time allowed for the class. It is easy to get lost in a question or series of questions and not cover other key points. At the same time, consider that if the discussion is critical, you may want to plan a follow-on class to discuss the point further, or to cover the other key points not covered in the presentation.
- Provide brief interim summaries before moving on to another question, or if the current discussion continues for a period.
- Take notes of student's responses, including the student that brought up a relevant point.
- Make eye-contact with the student asking a question or responding. Hold the eye contact for the period of the question. When responding, hold the eye contact for 4-5 seconds and then use general eye contact with other students.
- Don't allow heated or disagreements. Other students may hold a different view but keep discussion to the rules.
- Bring the discussion to a logical conclusion. Summarize key points. Arrange for follow-on discussion if needed, especially if new or controversial information is brought out that needs to be closed.