Getting Your Class To Talk

by Rob Steed  Australia's Small Group Guru

Helping class members to talk is an important part of successful class time.

The success of a class is very dependent on the teacher's ability to facilitate good discussion. The class that effectively discusses the lesson is more likely to enjoy a study that is practical, supportive and interesting. A key ingredient as to whether such discussion occurs is the ability of the class members to communicate effectively.

The following actions help promote good communication in a class.

1. Respond Actively: When someone makes comment of asks a question respond actively. Often immature (low level of communication) classes allow members' disclosures to pass by without response. They may not understand what has been said or they may disagree. When this happens the person disclosing will often withdraw, feeling that nobody is interested in their viewpoint. 2. Listen to what's Happening: Class members will know whether others are listening or not (body language). By looking interested physically people are encouraged to share more fully. Groups are most effective when all members take interest in all interactions and feel free to enter and assist in others' dialogues.

3. Take Risks in Self-Disclosure: Self-disclosure breeds more self-disclosure. For example ? "I would like to begin our study today regarding prayer by sharing with you an experience..." Taking the risk to share personally encourages others to do the same. The result being that trust builds and members feel confident to share more at a personal level.

4. Encourage Others Self-disclosure: Give recognition to others when they share their ideas and experiences. Praise encourages the reticent to contribute even further.

5. Enter Ongoing Conversations Appropriately: Showing involvement by joining in conversations builds class communication. However, avoid disrupting the conversation by refocusing the conversation. Your right to involvement is based on you contributing to the conversation.

6. Ask for Feedback: Seeking other members views rather than accepting one viewpoint enriches the discussion. For example ? "That is an interesting point of view how do others feel about this " The more views expressed the better the quality of discussion and interest.

7. Seat the class for communication: How the class is seated will either encourage or handicap good discussion. A circle is the most conducive to discussion. All members of the class need to be able to see each others faces. The more the teacher models effective communication skills the more other class members will follow.

Question That Facilitate Discussion

A key part of any good lesson discussion is asking good questions. Most of us if we work long enough at it can develop good questions.

Don't ask: "Too personal" questions too early in the life of the class. Personal questions are vital as trust builds but timing is important.

Don't ask long involved questions. Keep them short and concise. In other words one question at a time.

Don't be afraid of silence. A good question will require some time for people to think through before giving an answer.

Don't ask closed questions. Yes and no answers do not lead to discussion and sharing. Open ended questions are best.

Do share your own experience as this encourages others, Questions that get to a personal level facilitate a more practical discussion.

Do ask questions that have some relevance to people's lives. Questions that are trivial frustrate most people

Do clarify your question when asked.

Don't rush in with your own answer out of nervousness.

Do allow other group members to ask questions. The teacher doesn't have sole rights to asking questions.