Classroom Discussion: Benefit or Detriment?

Taking the Discussion Outside the Classroom Keeps it Real

Does mandatory classroom discussion dumb down lecture content for students?

From research of the many over-40 classmates I've studied with during the past year, the consensus among boomers is that enforced discussion in college or university classrooms is dumbing down lecture content. At the typical college age, we were all "serious intellectuals" taking the discussion outside the classroom creatively and independently on our own, while receiving a full hour or 2-hour lecture from the prof as well. There wasn't a problem remembering the content. In most eras, students naturally discuss what they're learning in nightly gatherings outside the classroom, every era and place having its own hangouts. The dress and aspiration is also era-specific - perhaps young men in black leather bomber jackets and Lenin caps sit beside freedom-fighting women in earnest hippie dresses, all having written or with plans to write their novels or journal articles... or whatever. The main point is that outside the classroom no discussion occurs to get a better mark.

Institutionalized Discussion Curbs Creativity in Learning 

What causes a professor to institute discussion with students during a lecture that I'm paying for to learn knowledge from him or her? Does a prof condone the conformity in holding particular opinions as well, that used to be free to roam in a cafe without any institutional shaping whatsoever? Where no opinion is shaped by a need for a mark or a grade or a reference, but each idea just feverishly fascinating to learn about for its own sake? Why can't students just discuss on their own without the guidance of a prof? And leave the lecture to being a distilled, creative expression of a senior expert's interpretations and ideas on the topic we're learning about that they reference and allude to?

The Most Verbose Students Are Rewarded

At my own university course about a fascinating literary topic, I have decided to drop the course and continue studying the subject on my own. I dislike having to listen to other students for half of the lecture time at my university. It feels like a controlled, herded, prescribed group experience. Perhaps it is a conditioning for the conformity expected of everyone from the working world, where "collaboration" is now mandatory, which often means a quiet tyranny by the participants who like to talk the most. Preference isn't given to the proven participants who know the most or execute the best and most efficiently, but the ones who talk at and in the highest volumes.

I have decided I value a real college or university lecture, and don't want it dumbed-down or cut in half, to make room for currently mandatory classroom discussion. Just as I seek quieter "doers" in my professional environments who walk the walk rather than just talk the talk.


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