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Small-Group Discussions (classroom)
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Ways of facilitating small-group discussions in classrooms
Time and Effort
|Instructor Prep Time||Medium|
|Student Activity Time||Medium|
|Instructor Response Time||Low|
|Complexity of Activity||Medium|
Small-Group Discussions provide students the opportunity to share ideas or opinions without having to address the entire class. Small-group discussions range in levels of structure. A simple small-group discussion asks students to divide into small groups and democratically discuss a prompt provided by the instructor. Groups often nominate a member to report highlights from their discussion to the entire class. Facilitating a highly-structured small-group discussion may take more planning but may also provide a richer and more inclusive experience for students. The elements of small-groups discussions that can be structured include the following:
- Group member roles (e.g. note-taker, devil's advocate, expert, spokesperson, etc.),
- Turn-taking rules for speaking (e.g. passing an object that permits speaking or losing a token each time a member speaks), and
- Team or individual discussion question worksheets to submit to the instructor.
Use it when you want...
- To create an opportunity for students to listen to and practice comments with a peer,
- To increases students’ willingness and readiness to speak in a larger group,
- To improve the quality of students’ contributions, or
- To engage students in a warm-up activity before a whole-class discussion.
What students will need
- No special requirements for this approach.
The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate Small-Group Discussions within a classroom.
- Identify an engaging question or problem that has many potential responses. Try responding to the question yourself.
- Set up students into small groups.
- Pose the discussion question(s) to the class verbally and in writing. Project question(s) on screen in classroom
- Students share responses in larger class discussions.
- Review and synthesize results. Draw conclusions from the activity or use results to guide another activity in response.
- Review the outcomes of the activity.
Accessibility and Room Considerations
- The wearing of masks by students (particularly in large lecture halls) may make it difficult for students to hear one another when they are asked to speak. All classrooms that are large enough to normally require a microphone already have a microphone system with a communal clip-on pickup element. Further information about the availability of additional clip-on or headset microphone elements will be coming soon. View the instructions and short videos below to assist with the use of the microphones and the portable systems:
Louisiana State University. Active Learning While Physical Distancing. URL: https://go.wisc.edu/03oyks.