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Generating Engagement & Participation
Tutorial session

Small group activities

Small group activities are widely used and are important for supporting learning in higher education. They provide more scope than traditional lectures for students to participate in student-student interaction and to assume greater ownership of the learning process. These activities promote learning by providing students with an opportunity to share and try out their ideas with others, and to examine different perspectives on issues. Remember though, any activity needs to be well-placed and meaningful.

When incorporating small group activities within your tutorial ensure that you provide students with clear instructions; and establish clear time parameters.

There are a number of examples of small group activities, here’s just a few:

  • In-class groups (sometimes referred to as ‘buzz groups’) – in 2’s-4’s, give students 30 sec – 5 minutes to:
    • Recall prior material
    • Answer or generate a question
    • Start a problem solution
    • Think of an example or application
    • Figure out why a result/approach might be wrong
    • Brainstorm a question (quantity, not quality)
    • Summarise a lecture
  • Think-Pair-Share. Students start off individually, for example reading a case, then they move to small groups of 2 – 3s, perhaps sharing their understanding or responding directly to a question, and finally back to whole group where they share a response or views.
  • Minute paper. At the end of your tute, give students 2 minutes to anonymously write: 1) the main point(s); and 2) the least clear point.

For more examples, see:

  • Groupwork for Staff - Website intended to assist staff who are designing groupwork tasks for inclusion in units of study at the Faculty of Economics and Business.