Garside, C. (1996).  Look who’s talking: A comparison of lecture and group discussion teaching strategies in developing critical thinking skills.  Communication Education, 45, 212-227.



In this study two teaching styles, lecture and group discussion, were compared to see which style is more effective for students.  No significant differences were found.  However differences were found in the pretest and the posttest that was given.  The lecture method of instruction “produced significant learning with regard to total score, low-level thinking items, and high-level thinking items” (212/10).  The group discussion “produced signicantly more learning with regard to higher-level items” (212/10). 


Points of Discussion:


1)      Introduction

a.      There was concern that “students fail to learn how to gather, analyze, synthesize or assess information” in a lecture based classroom (212/10). 

b.      Programs called Oral Communication Across the Curriculum (OCXC) were developed to meet fix the problems that lecture based classroom created for students.

c.      OCXC programs promote the use of oral activities in “presentations, debates, group discussions, and interactive video” (212/10). 

d.      OCXC were found on the bases:

1.      “Oral communication activities will enhance communication competence” (212/10).

2.      “Oral communication activities will enhance learning of course content” (212/10). 

e.      The question at hand is do “these [OCXC] programs enhance the achievement of student learning outcomes?” (213/11).   Since group discussion is used in most OCXC classroom settings, the study primarily focused on the question: “Does group discussion facilitated the development of critical thinking skills more so than traditional lecture methods of instruction?” (213/11). 

1.      What makes thinking critical? “The predispositions (attitude) and ability (skill) to (a) systematically and logically examine the evidence that supports various conclusions, (b) systematically and logically examine the reasoning that links evidence with conclusions, and (c) produce statements and assertions that are supported by both sound evidence and reasoning” (214/12).

2.      Features of critical thinking activities: The classroom has “active student participation, meaningful interaction with material, and student-to student verbal interaction” (216/14).  Also the teaching methods must allow “(a) differences in learning styles and abilities, (b) interaction with the process, and (c) human interaction to help clarify thoughts and ideas” (216/14).

3.      Facilitating critical thinking though group discussion activities: A good discussion requires “the participants not only to develop their own line of thought, but they must also respond to those developed by other group members” (217/15). 

4.      Cooperative learning as a form of group discussion: Cooperative learning requires students to get into groups where they are involved in “negotiating, initiating, planning and evaluating” (218/16).

5.      Benefits of cooperative learning: 1) It gives participants “a chance to learn new information from other students”  2) Students “consolidate their own learning” 3) It “enhances achievement in the classroom” (218/16). 

6.      Cooperative learning and critical thinking: Cooperative learning promotes critical thinking because 1) “Human interaction is required” 2) “students interact with material through discussion with peers” 3) students are able to view things from multiple perspectives” 4) “group members are provided with the opportunity to identify and remedy errors of individual judgment” (219/17). 


2)      Method

a.      118 undergraduate students enrolled in an “introductory interpersonal communication course” (219/17). 

b.      6 classes were studied “four that met twice weekly for 80 minutes and two that met once weekly for 160 minutes” (219/17).  

c.      3 classes were taught in the lecture format while the remaining 3 were “exposed to group discussion as a means of learning course content” (220/18). 

d.      All students were later given a test to see which classes gained the most information.


3)      Results

a.      Three comparisons were made:

1.      “Differences between instructional methods with regard to the total number of correct items on the posttest” (222/20).

2.      “Differences between the two instructional methods with regard to the total number of questions answered correctly for items that measured higher-order thinking skills” (222/20).

3.      “Differences between the two instructional methods with regard to the total number of questions answered correctly that tested the lower-order thinking skills” (222/20). 

b.      All three comparisons yielded non-significant main effects for the instructional method (222/20).  In other words no difference was found between the two teaching techniques. 




4)      Discussion Questions

a.      In the discussion section on page 224/22, Garside gives the excuse that the findings in this study (the two teaching techniques have no significant difference on the students) could be at fault because the students were new to college and were tested on their first day.  Garside claims the students do not have experience with group discussions.  Do you think this is simply an excuse that Garside came up with because she believes there is a difference between the two teaching techniques?  Don’t most students participate in group discussions in high school?  Wouldn’t that make the students experienced?  Also, do you think this study would have been more effective if they tested upper-division students?  Graduate students?

b.      Most of the discussion section seemed flawed.  Instead of coming up with ways to fix the errors, it seemed to come up with excuses.  Do you agree?  What do you think could have been done differently to fix this study?

c.      The conclusion this study seemed to focus on was face-to-face instruction proved to better than no instruction at all.  This conclusion seems to be irrelevant to study.  Do you agree?  Does it seem like Garside failed to come up with conclusions she wanted, so she came up with conclusions that could be possible outcomes from this study, yet hold no relevance to the study itself? 

d.      What type of instruction do you prefer, lecture or group discussion?  Why?  Are there any other types on instruction you prefer?  Where do you think you learn best?

e.      Is it necessary to put such a strong focus on group discussions, as many colleges do today?  In my opinion, group discussions and group activities have always been a successful way to waste time, and take pressure off the teacher so they don’t have to talk as much.  What have been your experiences?  Do you feel you gain critical thinking skills in group discussions that you do not gain from lectures?