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Neighbour Discussion

Short description

The students will have the opportunity to digest the lecture by discussing it with their neighbour, including formulating its central points and hearing their neighbour give his/her views on what the key points were.

Teacher's motivation

It can be tiring for students to spend a whole hour listening to a lecture. If you let them discuss with their neighbour for 5-10 minutes halfway through and also preferably afterwards, everyone is revitalised and alert again.

Description of the activity

The activity

  • The lecturer decides in advance to insert a period for discussion, perhaps 20-30 minutes into the lecture. 
  • The neighbour discussion is officially initiated with a question that should fit onto a PowerPoint slide or a whiteboard. For example: "What were Dewey’s three most important objections to contemporary education and what did he propose instead?" or "Explain Bohr's Copenhagen Interpretation to your bright cousin, who has just completed upper secondary school."
  • All of the students turn towards a person they have not spoken to that day or do not know well.
  • One of them speaks while the other listens before swapping roles - or they talk freely during the allocated 5-10 minutes.
  • The lecturer says "Thank you!" and the class hears from a couple of the groups: What did they discuss?
  • 1-3 questions may be asked before the lecturer says: "Thank you for that. I am now continuing my lecture."

Outcome of the activity

  • The monotony of the lecture is interrupted and everyone receives new energy. Research indicates that you can listen for half an hour; after that, your attention declines sharply (Donald A. Bligh: What's the use of lectures, 2000).
  • Everyone is active. When the lecturer "enters into a dialogue" with the audience, such as when there is a question from the audience, then only the student in question and the lecturer are active - the remainder sit and listen passively. In discussion pairs, half of the room are talking at the same time and the rest have to listen very attentively.
  • Learning is increased because the students must actively relate to the material and give it an appropriate form that can be understood by their discussion partner.
  • The students listen more attentively if they know that they will have to come up with some intelligent comments about the lecture during the neighbour discussion.
  • They make an effort when discussing with a stranger. Anybody would like to do well when facing a new face, while it is easier to be tempted to relax a little too much in the company of an old friend.
  • The study environment is improved if students repeatedly have to come into contact with co-students that they do not know during the lectures. Everyone has more acquaintances they can greet and chat with in the corridors. Social inclusion promotes learning and reduces drop-out rates.

Ib Ravn

Associate Professor Emeritus/Emerita