Small-Group Discussions (classroom)

This KB document is part of a larger collection of documents on active learning.
More Active Learning documents

Ways of facilitating small-group discussions in classrooms

Time and Effort

Instructor Prep TimeMedium
Student Activity TimeMedium
Instructor Response TimeLow
Complexity of ActivityMedium


Small-Group Discussions provide students the opportunity to share ideas or opinions without having to address the entire class. Small-group discussions range in levels of structure. A simple small-group discussion asks students to divide into small groups and democratically discuss a prompt provided by the instructor. Groups often nominate a member to report highlights from their discussion to the entire class. Facilitating a highly-structured small-group discussion may take more planning but may also provide a richer and more inclusive experience for students. The elements of small-groups discussions that can be structured include the following:

  • Group member roles (e.g. note-taker, devil's advocate, expert, spokesperson, etc.),
  • Turn-taking rules for speaking (e.g. passing an object that permits speaking or losing a token each time a member speaks), and
  • Team or individual discussion question worksheets to submit to the instructor.

Use it when you want...

  • To create an opportunity for students to listen to and practice comments with a peer,
  • To increases students’ willingness and readiness to speak in a larger group,
  • To improve the quality of students’ contributions, or
  • To engage students in a warm-up activity before a whole-class discussion.

What students will need

  • No special requirements for this approach.


The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate Small-Group Discussions within a classroom.


  • Identify an engaging question or problem that has many potential responses. Try responding to the question yourself.


  • Set up students into small groups.
  • Pose the discussion question(s) to the class verbally and in writing. Project question(s) on screen in classroom
  • Students share responses in larger class discussions.
  • Review and synthesize results. Draw conclusions from the activity or use results to guide another activity in response.


  • Review the outcomes of the activity.

Accessibility and Room Considerations

Technical Document

Video Examples


Louisiana State University. Active Learning While Physical Distancing. URL:

See Also:

Keywords:discussions, classroom, classroom   Doc ID:104073
Owner:Timmo D.Group:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
Created:2020-07-16 14:21 CDTUpdated:2021-08-20 14:19 CDT
Sites:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
Feedback:  3   0