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The purpose and function of smaller group teaching sessions will vary depending on the context. Below are just a few ideas for activities designed to establish that these sessions work best when they are interactive and dialogical. It’s probably a good idea also to spend time with the group establishing some shared expectations and ‘ground rules’ regarding, for example: attendance, engagement with prior reading, participation in discussions etc. This can be done in discussion with students by, for example, tasking them to come up with some ground rules for the conduct of future sessions.
This is one of the more common approaches to smaller group teaching. Ask individuals to consider a key question, idea, opinion, problem etc. – perhaps drawn directly from lecture preceding the session. Give students a couple of minutes to think about this and to jot down their views/responses. Next, ask them pair up with one other student, introduce themselves and then share and compare their responses. After a another 2-3 minutes, get the students into slightly larger groups (5-6 people), and provide a new task that builds on the first (e.g. an additional component of the idea or problem). After another 10 minutes (you can make it longer or shorted depending on the time available, complexity of the issues etc.) ask the smaller groups to report back on their discussions to the group as a whole (but first tell them they must introduce each other to the group!).
When de-briefing, explain that this is how smaller group sessions work best – by giving students space to reflect on, and discuss with their peers, the key themes and topics covered in the module.
Arrange the students into teams and give them a quiz on issues covered in the lecture preceding the session or on the broader themes of the module as a whole. Alternatively, ask groups to create short (5-10 question) quizzes for one another. As well as ‘closed’ quiz questions and multiple choice options, you can also set time-bound reflective/discussion-based tasks (e.g. ‘Summarise the significance of ‘X’ in no more than three sentences and share and compare your summary with one other person’)
Group question creation
Task smaller groups of students with generating questions based on the lecture and/or the module as a whole. Ask them to submit these questions in a box and draw them out one-by-one. For each question, give the student groups time to discuss and have a go at answering before responding yourself.
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