32 Planning Class Discussions

Teaching The Gospel A CES Resource for Teaching Improvement, (2000), 119

Principles to Emphasize

Good Questions and Effective Discussions Benefit Students

“Asking good questions and directing effective discussions are primary ways . . . [to] help students learn the value of personal inquiry” and encourage learner readiness, participation, and application (Teaching the Gospel: A Handbook, 37).

Plan the Discussion

Teachers need to carefully prepare and then conduct discussions under the influence of the Spirit so students can “begin to discover principles and concepts for themselves and then have the Spirit testify to them of their truthfulness” (Teaching the Gospel: A Handbook, 38).

Suggested Training Activities: Good Questions and Effective Discussions Benefit Students (25 minutes)


Invite teachers to carefully read the first paragraph of the section entitled “Questions and Class Discussion” (handbook, 37). Ask:

  1. When are people more likely to be edified? (see handbook, 37).

  2. In what ways do good questions and effective discussions benefit students? (see handbook, 37).

  3. How does a stimulating discussion encourage learner readiness, participation, and application?


Read together the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

The Master’s Inspired Questions

“Unlike some of our questions to others, Jesus’ questions were not flippant, nor were they mere rejoinders. Instead, they were true invitations, though only the meek may actually respond. Nevertheless, deep insights are imbedded in Christ’s questions! . . .

“Some of the Master’s queries require an entire shift in one’s frame of reference. Consider the question asked the brilliant, but as yet spiritually untamed, Saul on the road to Damascus: ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?’ (Acts 9:4). An entire frame of reference was changed, including an inspired question.

“There are tactical advantages as well as spiritual advantages that can accompany inspired questions. In a modern metaphor that you’re familiar with, inspired questions put the ball on the other side of the net, leaving people free to respond without our being unduly pressing or aggressive. Others may not respond, of course. Nevertheless, the invitations are clearly there, for quality questions linger, especially if they are asked in love. . . .

“. . . Ironically, pointed questions can widen our perspectives. How long since you’ve asked such a question or been asked such a question?” (Jesus, the Perfect Mentor [CES fireside for young adults, 6 Feb. 2000], 1–2).

Scripture Activity

Read together Mark 8:27–31; 9:2 (see footnote 2b). Ask teachers:

  1. According to footnote b in Mark 9:2, what did Peter, James, and John do to find out more about what the Savior had taught them?

  2. In what ways did the Savior use questions and discussion in His teaching?

  3. How should the need for students to ask and search influence the way you teach?

Suggested Training Activities: Plan the Discussion (25 minutes)


Invite teachers to read the numbered paragraph entitled “Plan the discussion” (handbook, 38). Ask:

  1. What should a teacher consider when planning a discussion? (see handbook, 38).

  2. What is the “whole purpose of discussion”? (see handbook, 38).

Writing Exercise

Distribute copies of handout 35. Invite teachers to plan a discussion about Exodus 16:1–8 by completing the handout. Have them share their answers with the in-service group.


Invite teachers to plan a discussion for an upcoming lesson using what they have learned. Have them share their experience of applying what they have learned (with a colleague or in the next in-service meeting).