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Buzz Groups

Active learning

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Using Buzz Group activities to facilitate discussion in the classroom
Time and Effort
Instructor Prep Time Low
Student Activity Time Low
Instructor Response Time Low
Complexity of Activity Low


Buzz Groups are teams of three to five students formed to quickly and spontaneously respond to course-related questions. A group can reply to one or more topics, and all groups can discuss the same or different topics. The discussion is informal. Students do not need to arrive at a consensus because the goal is the exchange of ideas.


Use it when you want...

  • To have a warm-up activity before a whole-class discussion,
  • To generate information and ideas quickly,
  • To allow students to express their thoughts and practice sharing their ideas,
  • To increase students’ repertoire of ideas around a topic, or
  • To lay a foundation for a rich and engaging discussion involving the entire class.

What students will need

  • No special requirements for this approach.


The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a Buzz Group learning activity within a classroom.


  • Identify a topic for discussion.
  • Craft a discussion prompt that is conceptual rather than factual, and that will stimulate an open-ended examination of ideas. Try responding to the question yourself, so you are confident that they will generate a variety of responses.
  • Choose how you are going to present the prompt question, such as on a worksheet, presentation slide, or whiteboard.
  • Determine how you will form groups.
  • Develop handouts to guide the activity in which students will work collaboratively.


  • Form groups, announce the discussion prompt, and provide a time limit for the activity. 
  • Ask group members to exchange ideas in response to the prompt.
  • Check periodically to see whether groups are still engaged and focused on the assigned topic. If off-topic, shorten the time limit. If on-topic but time has ended, consider extending the deadline.
  • Have groups report out results, or build on students’ work.


  • Review the outcomes of the activity.

Accessibility and Room Considerations

  • None

Technical Documentation

  • None


Example 1

An Introduction to Organic Chemistry Professor decided to use Buzz Groups to introduce students to volatile organic compounds. He broke students into groups of five and gave them three prompts: (1) Name some common chemical components in your household. (2) Why is it important to know about these compounds? (3) What are some of the potential health effects of exposure to these compounds? (4) How can individuals limit exposure to these compounds? Students discussed each prompt for five minutes (Barkley 166-167).

Example 2

A professor in Introduction to Media Studies is teaching a large lecture class in which 175 students are enrolled. He starts the first class with a lecture titled "Popular Culture as a Window for Understanding American Society." To engage students and start developing a sense of classroom community, the professor uses a Buzz Group activity. Student count of in rows (A1, A2, A3; B1, B2, B3). Students are given the discussion prompt "Which influence is stronger, and why? The public's influence on the media? Or the media's influence on the public? Students are asked first to pair with the person next to them — next, pair with the person behind them — finally, pair with the person in front of them. Students are given five minutes per interaction. The professor records the views and guides a general discussion on the topic and asks for volunteers to summarize their interactions (Barkley 167).


Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp 164-169.

Keywordsbuzz-groups, discussions, active learning, classroomDoc ID104151
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2020-07-20 09:45 CSTUpdated2023-07-19 08:30 CST
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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