Talking Chips (ALC)

Active Learning

This KB document is part of a larger collection of documents on active learning activities that take place in Active Learning Classrooms (ALC). More Active Learning documents

Using Talking Chips activity to facilitate discussion in Active Learning Classrooms

Time and Effort
Instructor Prep Time Low
Student Activity Time Low
Instructor Response Time Low
Complexity of Activity Low


Talking Chips have students participate in a group discussion, surrendering a token each time they speak. The purpose of this activity is to ensure equitable participation within groups by regulating how often each group member is allowed to speak.


Use it when you want...

  • To emphasize the importance of full and even participation within a group,
  • To help students discuss controversial issues, to encourage quiet students to participate, or
  • To solve communication and process problems, such as dominating or clashing group members.

What students will need

  • Some kind of token or object like poker chips or paperclips.


The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a Talking Chips learning activity within an Active Learning Classroom.


  • Determine a question or problem for group discussion.
  • Identify the kind of tokens to be used in the activity.


  • Give students at each table four or five tokens that will serve as permission to share, contribute, or debate in the conversation.
  • Ask students to participate equally in the group discussion, specifying that as they contribute comments they must surrender a token.
  • When all students have contributed to the discussion the activity is done.
  • Ask one or two tables to summarize their discussion. Ask the rest of the class if they had anything else they would like to share with the class.


  • Review the outcomes of the activity.

Accessibility and Room Considerations

  • None

Technical Documentation

  • None


Example 1

An instructor in Introduction to Social Welfare wants students to be able to apply sociological theory to explain the development of social services from 1960 to 1990. Students should be able to discuss the pros and cons of various social programs established to address problems such as unwanted pregnancies. He uses Talking Chips to facilitate this conversation. Each table was asked to develop a list that critiques several programs provided by the instructor. Each student is given five chips, and groups are given 20 minutes. When all chips are spent, the group is to stop discussing and focus on finalizing their list. Students hand in their lists with the names of each student in the group. The instructor reviews the lists after class. In the next class session, he shares the results and provides any critique or addresses any gaps he found in the students' work (Barkley 171).

Example 2

A professor in Calculus I decides to have students form groups that will persist for the entire semester. These groups are given 20 minutes each class session to work on reviewing the results of homework sets. Two weeks into the semester, she notices that while most groups are working well, a few are not. One group, in particular, has issues with dominating members who won't let the other members talk.


Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 170-174.

See Also:

Keywords:discussion, equity, participation, turns, managing,   Doc ID:118467
Owner:Timmo D.Group:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
Created:2022-05-10 14:44 CDTUpdated:2023-02-01 09:37 CDT
Sites:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
Feedback:  0   0