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Buzz Groups (ALC)
This KB document is part of a larger collection of documents on active learning activities that take place in Active Learning Classrooms (ALC). More Active Learning documents
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Buzz Groups are teams of 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
- Laptop, tablet, or mobile phone
- Classroom with campus wireless connection
The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a Buzz Group learning activity within an Active Learning 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.
- Option 1: Create a Google Slides doc that presents the discussion prompt at the top of the slide. Create copies of the slide for each table.
- Option 2: Using Top Hat to Report Results from Group Activities
- Develop handouts to guide the activity in which students will work collaboratively.
- Announce the discussion prompt, and provide a time limit for the activity.
- Ask group members to exchange ideas in response to the prompt.
- Options 1: Have the team assign a scribe to summarize the main discussion points to the Google slide for their table, and add students' names to the document.
- Option 2: Have students prepare their responses to paste into the Top Hat discussion question.
- 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.
- End the activity. Ask one or two tables to present their slide to the room or share their results in Top Hat. Ask the rest of the class if they had results that were not represented by the reporting groups.
- Review the outcomes of the activity in Google Slides or Top Hat.
Accessibility and Room Considerations
An Introduction to Organic Chemistry Professor used Buzz Groups to introduce students to volatile organic compounds. He gave each table 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 (Modified from Barkley 166-167).
An Introduction to Media Studies professor is teaching a large class in an Active Learning Classroom. To engage students and start developing a sense of classroom community, the professor uses a Buzz Group activity. 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 to their right — next, pair with the person to their left — finally, engage in a table-wide discussion. Students are given five minutes per interaction. The professor guides a general discussion on the topic and asks for volunteers to summarize their interactions (Modified from Barkley 167).
Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp 164-169.