Interaction Skills in Instructional Settings
Excellent classroom instructors are skilled at stimulating and sustaining relevant classroom discussion. Questions, opinions, shared contemplations, uttered insights, and lively exchanges are important components of well-functioning classrooms. Even a technical dissection of teaching skills highlights the importance of teacher ability to create interaction. For example, the microteaching clinic at Stanford University initially identified nine technical skills essential to effective teaching (Dunkin, 1987). Seven of those are directly related to classroom interaction: fluency in asking questions, reinforcing student participation, utilizing probing questions, utilizing higher order questions, facility with divergent questions, appropriate utilizing of nonverbal cues to reduce reliance on teacher talk, and utilizing interaction techniques to alleviate boredom and inattentiveness. In short,
effective teaching is largely characterized by instructors who are competent interactants, skilled in interactional discourse. In addition, the focus on the use of discussion formats and peer learning techniques increases the need for the teacher to be able to not only exhibit, but also teach and reinforce appropriate interaction skills among the students (Cooper, 1995). This chapter discusses interactional teaching techniques, particularly discussion management, with a somewhat prescriptive orientation in the hope that exposure to verbal and nonverbal strategies for promoting classroom interaction will improve classroom experiences.