Participating in Discussion-based Classes

Pre Class Preparation

  • Most of your work for a discussion class is done before you go to class. You should put time into reading, evaluating, and making notes about the information to be discussed.
  • After you have read the assignment, review it and make notes on:
    • Ideas, concepts, or points of view that you do not understand
    • Ideas and points of view with which you disagree
    • h2 and weak arguments
  • Go into class with specific ideas and questions in mind. This way you will not draw a blank if called upon, you know you have something specific to contribute.

Participating in the Discussion

Know when to get involved in discussion. Here are some appropriate times:

  •  when you can ask a serious, thoughtful question
  • when someone asks a question that you can answer
  • when you have a comment or suggestion to make on what has already been said
  • when you can supply additional information that will clarify the topic
  • when you can correct an error or clarify a misunderstanding

Taking Notes

  • Take notes on the reading, on one side of the page, then use the facing back side to record your notes on the discussion.
  • Head the page with the date, page number, and topic for discussion for the day.
  • Write down only the key topics discussed and the important concepts and ideas brought into the discussion.
  • If you are unsure if an idea is important, write it down.It is better to have too many ideas recorded than not enough.
  • Consider structuring your notes in a two column format, dividing arguments on each side of the issue into separate columns.
  • Make sure you are focused on the discussion enough to be able to participate, that is more important than getting down everything that is said.
  • As soon after class as possible, review and revise your notes. As you edit the notes, fill in any information you have left out. The sooner after class you do this, the more accurate your memory will be for filling in the gaps.

For more help with these, or any other study strategies, make an appointment with an ASC Peer Academic Coach, or with Jane Lalim, Associate Director of the Academic Support Center, by calling x7227 or email