What To Do When Class Discussion Stalls

We've all had moments when a lively class discussion begins to flag or peters out. For some of us, silence in the classroom can be disconcerting. To restart the conversation, try one of the following tips and strategies.

  • Allow students to gather their thoughts by writing for a few minutes.
  • Ask students to generate some fresh ideas by talking with their neighbor.
  • Make a challenging or provocative assertion. 
  • Pose a new question, and give students enough time--from 10 to 30 seconds--to respond thoughtfully.
  • Direct students to a sentence, paragraph, or table of data, and ask them to analyze it closely and carefully. 
  • Draw attention to how the issue you're grappling with in the classroom has real-world applicability.
  • Summarize, or ask a student to summarize, the main points of the discussion, and solicit ideas about where to go next.
  • Invite students to stand up, stretch, or move around the room.

For additional pedagogical resources, visit the Graduate Students and Faculty webpages.