Discussion Assessments

General Characteristics

  • Encourages learners to complete assigned readings and engage with content.
  • Fosters leadership and participation with thoughtful questions/comments.
  • Provides insight into knowledge/content gaps. i.e., which questions are not being asked?
  • Encourages balance between over- and under- talkers in online and face-to-face courses.


Name Description
Pennies to Spend Give everyone two pennies to spend during class discussion. Students spend a penny when they contribute to the discussion. Once the student's two cents are spent, they cannot contribute until everyone else's pennies are spent. 
Group to Group Discussions Have students get into groups and have discussions or even debates between groups. 
Team Competitions Have students work in groups (teams) on a project, presentation, debate, student-led discussion, etc. Groups/teams compete for an award (e.g., extra credit points, treats, etc.)
Critical Discussion Points Have students identify and critique the critical discussion points. 
Scored Discussion Students will be assessed on how well they participate in the discussion. How well did a student keep the discussion going if they were a leader? Did the student participate? What was the quality of the contribution? Did it appear the contributor did the reading/assignment/knows the material?
Peer Review/Scoring Have students use a rubric to score other students. This is a versatile assessment that can be applied to writing, presentations, projects, etc. Peer review and scoring is a good way to have students demonstrate their analytical skills. 
Student-led Discussions Have students lead discussions (or parts of discussions) for class individually or in groups. This activity can help hold students accountable for readings and also develop and strengthen leadership qualities. This is often best paired with assigning students to post questions or write reflections that are due at least an hour before the discussion. This ensures they will come to class and have the reading done. 
Student-led Summaries Have students summarize a discussion, lecture, topic, or reading. Students can work in groups or individually. 
Reflections on Peer Learning After a peer learning exercise, have students reflect on the learning that took place. Did you gain any insight from your peer? Explain. Did your understanding change? Explain. Were you able to explain ideas to your peers? How did this exercise impact how well you thought you knew the topic? Did you struggle with this exercise in any way? Explain.
Posting Discussion Questions Have students formulate and post two discussion questions with respect to a particular topic or assigned reading. Students can also be required to respond to/evaluate at least two questions from another student. Ideally, questions should be posted/due to a forum at least an hour before class. Not only does this help discussion leaders keep discussions going with questions relevant to class interest, it also encourages students to actually read the assigned reading and be prepared to participate in the discussion.