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Buzz Groups are teams of three to five students formed to respond quickly and spontaneously 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 reach a consensus because the goal is to exchange 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, engaging discussion involving the entire class.
What students will need
- There are no special requirements for this approach.
The following workflow is meant to guide you on 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 they will generate various responses.
- Choose how you will present the prompt question 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 results or build on students’ work.
- Review the outcomes of the activity.
Accessibility and Room Considerations
An Introduction to Organic Chemistry Professor used Buzz Groups to introduce students to volatile organic compounds. He divided students into groups of five and gave them three prompts: (1) Name some chemical components in your household. (2) Why is it important to know about these compounds? (3) What are some 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).
A professor in Introduction to Media Studies taught a large lecture class in which 175 students were enrolled. He started the first class with a lecture titled "Popular Culture as a Window for Understanding American Society." The professor used a Buzz Group activity to engage students and develop a sense of classroom community. Students counted off in rows (A1, A2, A3; B1, B2, B3). Students were 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 were asked first to pair with the person next to them, then to pair with the person behind them, and finally, to pair with the person in front of them. Students were given five minutes per interaction. The professor recorded the views, guided a general discussion, and asked 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.