Why Discussion Matters for Mattering: How to Teach Students the Power of Speaking & Listening | Liza Garonzik | 8 Min Read

October 30, 2023

For many teachers, class discussion is a chance to dive into content: to unearth new meaning in a text, debate the impact of a historical event, draw connections among ideas. 

At R.E.A.L.® we believe all of those things are true—but in today’s world, class discussion serves an even more important purpose: it may be the only time when students consistently engage in the deeply human experience of sustained, screen-free conversation. 

Teachers, then, have an extraordinary opportunity (and, perhaps, responsibility): to help students feel seen, heard, and aware of the dynamics of human conversation. We know that adolescence today is defined at once by a sense of hypervisibility (“I have thousands of followers!”) and constant curation (“No one actually sees me as me”), and we see class discussion as an important method to teach the live communication skills kids find hard. These are skills for the defining experiences of their lives—things like falling in love, engaging in democracy and community, negotiating friendships over time, leading teams in the workplace. 

Class discussion is also a way for students to experience and practice interdependence—that is, the skill of seeing, appreciating, and depending on each other in a world that’s obsessed with individual success and personal preferences. In a…

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Liza Garonzik

Liza Garonzik is the Founder of R.E.A.L. Discussion, a program that trains faculty to (re)teach Gen-Z students the discussion skills they need for success in learning — and real life. Her work is informed by an interdisciplinary research base and experience as a student, teacher, administrator, and trustee in diverse independent schools. Get in touch at [email protected] — there's little she loves more than a great conversation!