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Strategies for Improving Discussion Skills

Asking questions and joining in discussions are important skills for jobs. If you find it difficult to speak or ask questions, try the following strategies.



Asking questions and joining in discussions are important skills for jobs. If you find it difficult to speak or ask questions, try the following strategies.




Attend as many seminars and tutorials as possible and notice what other students do. Ask yourself:


     How do other make critical comments?


     How do they ask questions?


     How do they disagree with or support the topic?


     What special phrases do they use to show politeness even when they are voicing disagreement?


     How do they signal to interrupt, ask a question or make a point?




Practise outside to improve your discussion skills. Start in an informal setting or with a small group. Begin by:


             asking questions. Ask for their opinions. Ask for information or


             ask for advice.




If you find it difficult to participate in discussion, set yourself goals and aim to increase your contribution


An easy way to participate is to add to the existing discussion. Start by making small contributions; agree with what someone has said or ask them to expand on their point (ask for an example or for more information); Prepare a question to ask beforehand. You can then work up to answering a question put to the group, providing an example for a point under discussion, or disagreeing with a point.



What is an argument?


To `argue' is to present an opinion through the process of reasoning, supported by evidence. An argument seeks to persuade through rational and critical judgement.


How do we argue at?


The everyday meaning of the term argument implies a fight: an aggressive conflict or confrontation between adversaries, where one tries to dominate the other in order to `win'. In GD this kind of arguing is not appropriate.


The aim of GD argument is to explore a question, proposition or an area of knowledge and achieve reasoned mutual understanding. It is not important who'`wins'—what matters most is the quality of the argument itself.


When you engage in GD argument in tutorial discussions, you are developing your ideas, advancing and clarifying your knowledge and learning to think critically




Participation: Voicing an opinion and arguing a point effectively




1. Voicing an Opinion in a Seminar



Participating in a tutorial discussion can be a bit scary,specially when you want to disagree with a point of view and are not sure how to, or of which language structures to use. Voicing your opinion and using effective arguing techniques are valuable skills.


You may have a great idea, but you need to communicate it effectively and support it. The three essential parts to a point of view are:






        A valid opinion (a believable point of view)


             I believe that ...


             I think that ...


             From what I understand ...


             As I understand it ...


        A reason why


             This is due to ...


             Because ...


             What I mean by this is ...


            Evidence (relevant and up-to-date examples, statistics, explanations and/ or expert opinions). If you have actual data, examples or expert opinions on hand, refer to the source.




o                    This can be seen by


o                    For instance ...


o                    For example ...


o                    An example can be seen ...


o                    (Author's name) states that ...


o                    (Author's name) suggests...


     Statistics from (give a source) indicate ...


             Arguing a Point: How to disagree effectively


Disagreeing can be problematic as people often speak before they think things through. It is also important to disagree politely. You may be trying to disprove another speaker's point, but






        Acknowledge their point


             I can see your point--however ...


             That's a good point, but ...


             I see what you're getting at, but ...


        Then explain why you disagree


             That's not always the case because ...


             That's not neccessarily true because ...


             This idea isn't supported by statistics/ evidence ...


             I thought the author meant that ...


3. Offer your opinion complete with reason and





             From what I've read ...


             The statistics seem to show that ...


             I think what the author may actually be suggesting is ...


             Other studies by author/report show that ...


Now, be prepared for counter-argument and further discussion!


Remember, confidence is the key. If you do your tutorial preparation and think things through, you can speak with confidence and believe that your contribution will


be valid.



Discussion Etiquette (or minding your manners)


In order to successfully negotiate discussion, courtesy is important. The following are a few ground rules for good conduct.





     Respect the contribution of other speakers.


     Speak pleasantly and with courtesy to all members of the group.


     Listen well to the ideas of other speakers; you will learn something.


     Remember that a discussion is not a fight. Learn to disagree politely.


     Respect that others have differing views and are not neccessarily `wrong'.


            Think about your contribution before you speak. How best can you answer the question/ contribute to the topic?


     Try to stick to the discussion topic. Don't introduce irrelevant information.


            Be aware of your body language when you are speaking. Keep it `open' and friendly. Avoid gestures that appear aggressive.


     Agree with and acknowledge what you find interesting.


            Stay with the topic. If the discussion does waiver, bring it back on topic by saying something like `Just a final point about the last topic before we move on' or `that's an interesting point, can we come back to that later?


            Try to speak clearly. Don't whisper; even if you're feeling uncertain about your ideas or language.





            Don't take offence if a person disagrees with you. There will be times when other speakers will have different points of view. They may disagree with your ideas, and they are entitled to do so.


            Don't ridicule the contribution of others. Don't use comments like `that's stupid', that's ridiculous, or `you're wrong'.


     Don't try to intimidate or insult another speaker.


     Don't use a loud or angry tone. Others will not want to listen to you if you are being aggressive.


Use a moderate tone and medium pitch.


            Avoid negative body language when speaking. Gestures like finger-pointing and table-thumping appear aggressive.


            Try not to dominate the discussion. Confident speakers should allow quieter students a chance to contribute.


            Avoid drawing too much on personal experience or anecdote. Remember not to generalise too much.


            Don't interrupt or talk over another speaker. Let them finish their point before you start. Listening to others earns you the right to be heard.

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