Fishbowl Discussion (classroom)

Process of facilitating a fishbowl activity in a classroom
Time and Effort
Instructor Prep Time Medium
Student Activity Time Low
Instructor Response Time Low
Complexity of Activity Low
Classroom Considerations Require movable tables and chairs


Fishbowl Discussion is a teaching strategy that encourages full student participation, reflection, and depth of knowledge. Students are broken up into groups or teams. Each team takes turns being engaged in discussion (inside the bowl) and observing others' discussions (out of the bowl). Students in the bowl participate in a discussion in response to an instructor's prompt. Students outside of the bowl listen and reflect on the alternative viewpoints.


Use it when you want...

  • To make sure all students participate in a discussion,
  • To develop strong speaking and listening skills,
  • To encourage reflection on and assess the elements of a good discussion or
  • To provide a useful process for discussing controversial or difficult topics.

What students will need

  • No special requirements for this approach.


The following workflow is meant to guide how to facilitate a Fishbowl Discussion active learning activity within a classroom.


  • Identify an engaging question or problem that has many potential responses. Try responding to the question yourself.
  • Develop guidelines for students to assess the quality of the discussions.
  • Determine how groups will be formed.


  • Organize students into groups of 3-5 members.
  • Present students with the topic to discuss or debate.
  • Provide students with guidelines for listening to and participating in the discussion.
  • Provide students with time (up to 5 minutes) to gather their thoughts before beginning.
  • Begin the discussion by calling attention to the performance of one group. 
  • Students organize themselves into groups around the room.
  • The other groups take notes. In some situations, students are given time to ask the participants questions.
  • Groups provide feedback on presentations.
  • Once the discussion is complete, refocus the class on the performance of the next group.
  • When fishbowl time is up, facilitate a debrief. Students should reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of each discussion, the quality of their performances, and what they learned from the activity. A fishbowl assessment form may facilitate the debriefing.


  • Review the outcomes of the activity.

Accessibility and Room Considerations

  • None

Technical Documents

  • None


Louisiana State University. Active Learning While Physical Distancing. URL:

Keywordsfishbowl, discussion, active learning, classroomDoc ID104085
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2020-07-16 16:02:29Updated2024-04-16 12:40:22
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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