Fishbowl Discussion (classroom)
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Process of facilitating a fishbowl activity in a classroom
Time and Effort
|Instructor Prep Time||Low|
|Student Activity Time||Low|
|Instructor Response Time||Low|
|Complexity of Activity||Low|
Fishbowl Discussion is a teaching strategy that encourages full student participation, reflection, and depth of knowledge. Students are broken up into groups or teams. Each team takes turns being engaged in discussion (inside the bowl) and observing others' discussions (out of the bowl). Students in the bowl participate in a discussion responding to an instructor prompt. Students outside of the bowl listen and reflect on the alternative viewpoints.|
Use it when you want...
- To make sure all students participate in a discussion,
- To develop strong speaking and listening skills,
- To encourage reflection on and assess the elements of a good discussion, or
- To provide a useful process of discussing controversial or difficult topics.
What students will need
- Laptop, or tablet, or mobile phone
- Top Hat mobile app installed on a tablet or mobile phone
- Classroom with campus wireless connection
- Resources for student access to computers
The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a Fishbowl Discussion active learning activity within a classroom.
- Identify an engaging question or problem that has many potential responses. Try responding to the question yourself.
- Develop guidelines for students to assess the quality of the discussions.
- Organize students into groups of 3-5 members.
- Present students with the topic to discuss or debate.
- Provide students with guidelines for listening to and participating in the discussion.
- Provide students with time (up to 5 minutes) to gather their thoughts before beginning.
- The other groups take notes. In some situations, students are given time to ask questions of the participants.
- Groups provide feedback on presentations.
- Once the discussion is complete, refocus the class on the performance of the next group.
- When fishbowl time is up, facilitate a debrief. Students should reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of each discussion, the quality of their performances, and what they learned from the activity. The debriefing may be facilitated by a fishbowl assessment form.
- Review the outcomes of the activity.
Accessibility and Room Considerations
- The wearing of masks by students (particularly in large lecture halls) may make it difficult for students to hear one another when they are asked to speak. All classrooms that are large enough to normally require a microphone already have a microphone system with a communal clip-on pickup element. Further information about the availability of additional clip-on or headset microphone elements will be coming soon. View the instructions and short videos below to assist with the use of the microphones and the portable systems:
Louisiana State University. Active Learning While Physical Distancing. URL: https://go.wisc.edu/03oyks.