Small Group Discussions

Low-structure teaching methods can leave some learners behind and hinder participation. Adding structure to each lesson, each week, and the course, enables a more inclusive learning experience for all your students.

Adding structure to small groups/small classes

  • Take time to teach students how to participate in small groups
  • Assign and rotate roles
  • Provide clear instructions on a screen or worksheet

Three Examples of Activities for Small Groups

Note that these work well in online learning as well as in face-to-face formats.

Think-Pair-Share 

  • Get comfortable with the silence so that all students have the time they need to think
  • “I’ll give you two minutes to think or write silently, and then I’ll prompt you to pair up with your classmates.”

Source: VIJI SATHY and KELLY A. HOGAN, Want to Reach All of Your Students? Here’s How to Make Your Teaching More Inclusive July 2019 https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/20190719_inclusive_teaching

Brainstorming

Answer a question in the full group. One person can record the answers. You can optionally arrange the list into two or more categories to get at higher order thinking.
Example Question: What does a plant need to survive?
Categories: abiotic vs. biotic factors.

Objectives

  • Elicits responses and aggregates them into a single list
  • Provides an overview of the group’s collective knowledge
  • By categorizing, students must evaluate how well they understand the role of each response in a specific context

Source: Jo Handelsman; Sarah Miller; Christine Pfund, Scientific Teaching, Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching, W.H. Freeman & Co, [2007]

Mini Mind Map

Arrange the following terms in a logical order. Explain (using arrows or words) how the terms relate to each other.
Example terms: tRNA, DNA, protein, mRNA, amino acid, translation, transcription, replication, and promoter.

Objectives: Mini-maps engage students in developing a non-verbal representation of a concept. The process of developing a visual arrangement requires students to evaluate different ways that terms can relate to each other and to appreciate that a biological process (or economic one, or historical one, or theatrical one) may not be unidirectional or linear.

Source: Jo Handelsman; Sarah Miller; Christine Pfund, Scientific Teaching, Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching, W.H. Freeman & Co, [2007]

Documenting and Measuring your inclusive efforts

  1. Document your efforts
  2. Survey the students
  3. Ask a colleague to observe your class
  4. Collect data on student learning through the AART dashboard in NYU Classes