Active learning

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Techniques to facilitate discussions

Active Learning

Discussion activities assess how well students can formulate their ideas and communicate them clearly. Unlike large classroom discussions, these approaches place students in smaller groups with the goal of providing them a structure for participation, and opportunities to formulate and gather their thoughts, share and develop ideas with others, and rehearse their thoughts within a safer environment. Using these approaches, instructors can evaluate how well students recall, synthesize, and apply information in responding to a discussion prompt. 

Approach Description Outcome
Buzz Group Students discuss course-related questions informally in small groups of peers. Generating lots of information and ideas in a short period in preparation for and improvement of class discussions.
Fishbowl Discussion* Student groups take turns discussing a given topic while being observed by the other groups. Encouraging all students to participate, reflecting on the qualities of good discussions, and encouraging strong discussion and listening skills.
Round Robin Students generate ideas and speak in order, moving from one student to the next. Providing students a structure to engage in brainstorming sessions and ensuring all students participate equally in a discussion.
Talking Chips Students participate in a group discussion and surrender a token each time they speak. Ensuring equitable participation during class or group discussions.
Think/Pair/Share Students think individually for a few minutes, then discuss and compare their responses with a partner, and finally, share their results with the entire class. Preparing students to participate more fully and effectively in whole-class discussions.
Three-Step Interview Students interview each other and report what they learn to another pair. Helping students network and improve listening, questioning, and communication skills.


Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 152.

*Louisiana State University. Active Learning While Physical Distancing. URL: https://go.wisc.edu/03oyks.

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Keywords:discussions   Doc ID:104159
Owner:Timmo D.Group:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
Created:2020-07-20 13:17 CDTUpdated:2023-09-14 09:34 CDT
Sites:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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