Since Core is designed around classroom discussions, it is important to understand fully what one is and to be able to participate in it. Much of what passes for classroom discussion is really “recitation.” During recitation, the professor asks you questions and you recite the “right” answer. You aren’t supposed to raise your hand if you don’t have the whole, correct answer ready. (Pity the poor students whose professor calls on them to recite, whether they volunteer or not!)
True discussions are not that cut-and-dried. They move back and forth among students as well as between professor and students. Not everything that is said is an “answer.” Some of what is said may not be complete, or even “right.” There are various ways of participating in a discussion, and you can pick your opportunities. During a discussion, the group as a whole is considering an issue, looking at it in different ways, trying it out, pushing it, pulling it, wondering about it, testing it, stretching it. You can change your mind partway through. You can say things you aren’t sure about.
A discussion is not the same as a debate or an argument either. In a debate, there are only two sides (or maybe three) to an issue. You have to pick one and advocate it; eventually, one side “wins.” Having an argument suggests quarreling or contention. It is true that sometimes during a discussion, a debate or argument may occur, but discussion need not include disagreement.
Listed below are some ways that you can add something to a class discussion. These are not the only possible types of participation, but they are probably enough to get you started.
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