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Discussion ideas

Discussion can enhance learning in all sorts of ways, allowing students to interact with a subject while helping to widen their understanding. We have suggested several different methods of discussion below that you can adapt and use for the relevant themes you are studying. This will enable you to bring discussion into the classroom.

If you have never run a discussion within your class before you may want to seek the advice of colleagues who have. Before starting you should set some ground rules, including not speaking over each other, a system of selecting who speaks next and respecting differing views.

If you are running a discussion on sensitive issues you may want to seek the advice of a child protection officer, who will be able to provide you with the relevant support.

Balloon debate

You or the students can select different people who are featured on the website. This can be done using the people section or by reading through the themes and selecting individuals who appear. A balloon debate would involve four key figures from the history of medicine who find themselves in a hot-air balloon that is in imminent danger of dropping into the sea. The only way to save the balloon is to throw one person overboard.

Use this idea to generate a discussion on who should be saved and why. In short, just how important is each individual’s contribution to the history of medicine? You can either present the students with the four historical figures under discussion or you can divide the class into groups of four and each group can represent one of the four.

As an alternative, the balloon might contain vital inventions, life-saving medicines or ground-breaking surgical procedures.

Vote on it

Set the students a challenge to research a particular subject from the website. Divide them into two groups, where one group will represent a specific idea, innovation or person and the other will oppose the first group. Both must represent their side of the argument and try to convince the other group to change their mind.

Concluding the debate with a vote serves to tie up any loose ends and encourages students to reflect on what they have heard and how they feel about a particular topic, whilst making an informed decision. Voting can be based on a show of hands, a secret ballot, a parliamentary-style division (in which students line up behind boards saying ‘for’ or ‘against’ the motion under discussion), or perhaps two coloured cards (green for ‘yes’, red for ‘no’), one of which every student can hold up at the end of the debate.