Design and Facilitate Good Discussions
Class and small group discussions make up a significant portion of student-to-student, student-to-instructor, and student-with-content interactions. It isn't always as easy as just tossing out a question. ("Are there any questions?" is not usually a great discussion starter.) A well-formed question that is challenging and has the prospect of eliciting a variety of perspectives takes some thought to construct. Deciding whether the concept should be discussed in a large, class-wide discussion or whether small groups, pairs or triads will bring about a better result depends on a variety of elements including class size, level of experience and expertise withing the class, student dynamics, etc.
Several helpful ideas are found in these resources. Don't be misled by the word 'online' in the titles - most all the ideas can/should be applied to face-to-face discussions as well:
Online discussions: tips for instructors - Center for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo
CREST+ Model: Writing Effective Online Discussion Questions, by Aiken and Neal, 2007, Texas Woman's University (This article is not visually exciting but it is not long and it really helps us think about the kind of question we might want to pose.)
Be careful that you don't over-rely on discussions. Consider using other activities. A great source for ideas and instructions for implementing them is the free book by Bonk and Khoo: Adding Some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ Activities for Motivating and Retaining Learners Online. Again, most of these activities work equally well in a face-to-face class.