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Small Group Teaching ideas suitable for VLT


Description: An exercise in creative thinking where groups record their ideas on a given topic.

Purpose: To generate new ideas and release individual potential in thinking about ideas.

Procedure: The lecturer and/or the students select suitable topics or questions to brainstorm. The idea with brainstorming is to go for a large quantity of ideas, as the more ideas generated the greater the chance of obtaining good ones. Free wheeling is welcomed, the wider the idea the better. Hitch hiking is also appropriate as it allows students to build on the ideas of others. Critical judgements come much later in the process after a large body of ideas have been generated. A recorder lists the ideas.

Limitations: Practical with no more than 20 students. Requires well-chosen topics or questions so that the outcomes of the brainstorm have value.

Considerations for VLT: Can easily run brainstorms at each location and have students report back. Running a whole class brainstorm across locations requires careful planning and facilitation but it is possible. Back to top


Line Ups

Description: Students arrange themselves on a continuum to represent their position on an issue.

Purpose: As a catalyst for discussion, since students see where their peers sit on an issue.

Procedure: Pose a question where students can agree or disagree. They then position themselves on the continuum in the place that best represents their stance. Discussion can follow tapping into the students differing viewpoints.

Variations: This can also be used as a before and after activity where they line up showing their initial position and then participate in activities and discussion related to the issue at the conclusion they line up again to indicate whether their position has changed.

Can also be used in conjunction with role plays where students position the view of other authors, theorists experts rather than their own view.

Limitations: Requires a clear purpose, some issues and topics are better suited to this activity than others.

Considerations for VLT: Give consideration to where you position the students. Perhaps have all of the agrees in front of one camera and the disagrees in front another. Then discuss across locations.  Back to top


Jigsaw learning

Description: Students work together in one group to understand a topic and then move to a new group to share these new understandings.

Purpose: To give students a basic understanding of a range of topics or issues.

Procedure: A topic is divided into sub topics that groups explore eg: The topic of Disability could be broken into the sub topics of visual impairment, physical impairment etc. The groups explore these topics following the guidance of the lecturer. Groups are then reorganised to include at least one member of each of the sub topic groups.  Each member of the group shares their knowledge of the sub topic with their new group. So all students will have explored one topic in-depth and will have a basic understanding of all the other topics.

Limitations: Getting students to stick to time so that all members of the new group are heard is important.

Considerations for VLT: Group size and allocation across locations will need to be carefully thought out. Might work better if a each location runs an independent jigsaw learning activity with a report back session at the conclusion.  Back to top


Presentation followed by Question and Answer session

Description: Lecture or guest presentation followed by a Q and A session.

Purpose: The lecture or presentation serves as a basic grounding on the topic for all students with an opportunity to go deeper in the question and answer session.  Students can all participate fully in the discussion regardless of the amount of preparation they have done.

Procedure: Lecturer or guest delivers a concise presentation on a topic. Presentation should be limited to 30 minutes. Students can then ask questions related to the presentation or the wider topic.

Variations: This can also be reversed, where the lecturer or guest asks questions of the students to initiate discussion following the presentation.

Limitations: This requires good facilitation of the question and answer session. Try to throw some of the questions back to the group to avoid the lecturer or guest being seen as the only source of knowledge on this topic.

Considerations for VLT: Students all need to be able to see each other. So it will be a good idea to have audience cameras on in each location. Get students to stand up when they ask a question, so that everyone can see who is talking.  Back to top


Buzz Groups

Description: Students discuss a topic in small groups followed by discussion among the entire class.

Purpose: This method allows every group member to be an active participant. This can tune students into the topic and get them talking so that the class discussion that follows is more considered. Buzz groups can be used to reinvigorate discussion when it stalls.

Procedure: Give one or two questions to the class to discuss. Divide the class into small groups of four to six individuals. A leader is chosen to record and report ideas to the whole class.

Limitations: Thought needs to be given to the purpose of the buzz groups and the organisation of the groups.

Considerations for VLT: Have buzz groups at each location. Consider turning the cameras off while the students work in their buzz groups. The class discussion takes place across locations.  Back to top



Description: Student illustrations used as a way to bring out ideas or principles on a topic.

Purpose: A technique to stimulate interest, thinking, and participation. They are particularly useful for designing flowcharts and models.

Procedure: The facilitator and planning-group members select general principles or questions that would be suitable to illustrate. Facilitator divides the group into four or five subgroups. Each subgroup is given a statement or problem to illustrate. After completing the picture making, each group shows and explains its picture. This is followed by a discussion.

Limitations: The value of making the illustrations might not be immediately apparent to students. It is up to the lecturer to clearly convey the value of this activity. All necessary materials need to be available for students to use.

Considerations for VLT:  Illustrations need to be displayed so that all locations can see them while students discuss them.  Back to top