Educational Philosophy, Concepts, Methods, and Skills in Teaching 9 process, students communicate and test their ideas as they are being formed and shaped, stimulating their critical thinking skills. In addition to deepening their understanding of social work practice and developing their critical thinking abilities, students are learning to work col- laboratively. This requires them to develop the ability to move outside of them- selves, to listen, and to evaluate and consider incorporating others’ perspectives and learning styles. Some instructors find it difficult to engage student participation in dis- cussions. Some might even become discouraged, lose faith in the discussion method, or blame and become frustrated with students for their lack of par- ticipation. We understand these reactions, but we suggest that the students’ reluctance is likely to reflect their lack of confidence in their abilities, previous experience with the discussion format, or both. Instructors can encourage a discussion format by first arranging seating so that students can see and talk to one another. Five additional strategies facilitate productive discussions in the classroom and are described next. Posing questions and comments. When the instructor offers a question, this stimulates students to think out loud and fosters discussion. Different types of questions will require different types of answers: Facts and clarification: “What does ‘anticipatory empathy’ mean?” Inferences and explanations: “Why is anticipatory empathy so important when we are engaging clients in a working relationship?” Elaborations and syntheses: “Susanna [a student in the class] was telling us about the challenges she’s facing with her client Benjamin. Let’s take a few minutes to tune in and empathize with Benjamin—and Susanna—to see what they might be experiencing when they first meet with one another.” Evaluative judgments: “How might anticipatory empathy look in Brenda’s [student] setting where her clients have to see her, and Tyler’s [another student] setting where clients seek out his help?” Opinions: “What do you all think Susanna’s client might have really been saying to her when he refused to answer her questions?” The instructor then engages the students in a tuning in exercise and asks, “Based upon what we just did with respect to tuning in to him, what could she have said, and what could she say when she sees him again?” Starting in the first class, instructors create the norm of student partici- pation. Questions that invite opinions that have no right or wrong answers encourage open class discussion. Students should be invited to build on one another’s contributions rather than the instructor responding to each student’s comments. As students become comfortable, more challenging questions can deepen the quality of comments by requiring critical thinking, including critiquing one’s own actions.
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