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Small Group Discussion Protocols (20 Examples) - example of discussion post responses

Small Group Discussion Protocols (20 Examples)-example of discussion post responses

Small Group Discussion Protocols (20 Examples)
Each of these protocols will have a "time required" section which is my best guess of how much
time each will take. That estimated time is based on students having about a minute to respond
individually to any issue. That limit was chosen on the assumption that the small group discussion is
intended to prepare the students for the large group discussion. If the small group discussion is
intended to develop meaningful outputs, the times will probably be longer.
It will also list an "Online equivalent" for the exercise. When selecting the tools you wish to use
online, you will first have to decide whether an activity works best synchronously or
asynchronously. In general, I tend to aim at asynchronous interaction first, because it allows
participants around the world to log in at their convenience. I like the idea of global conversations,
and they tend to be richer and more diverse. Asynchronous discussions also give participants more
time to think about their about their responses, and give shy or contemplative participants a better
chance to contribute. Asynchronous interactions take a long time though (several days at least),
which may lead you to choose synchronous interactions instead. Synchronous interactions are
quicker and because they often involve audio or video, they can more quickly establish a sense of
community and a perceived rapport with the instructor.
Synchronous Tools: Synchronous communication means that the participants are online at the
same time (or at least, are pretending to be!). For voice communication, one can use Skype or
another VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). Skype is still free for two-person Skype to Skype calls
within the U.S. and the price for international calls is quite low. Skype also allows video, although
for more than two people one needs to purchase Skype Premium, which currently allows up to ten
participants to have a video conversation.
For text messages, one can use IM (Instant Messaging) tools like Skype, Windows Live Messenger,
Tencent QQ, Yahoo!Messenger, Blauk, and AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). One can text over both
the computer or cell phone. Chat rooms are also a possibility although the current preference is to
use a virtual classroom environment like Wimba Classroom or Adobe Connect because of the
variety of tools that these bring together. Wimba Classroom, for example allows instructors to take
a show of hands, take questions, show videos, use a whiteboard, feature a visiting presenter, host a
chat room (both for the entire class and break-out rooms for small group work), polling, and
conduct a variety of other activities. The most promising development in the last year is Avatar
Kinect, which promises to raise avatar chats to a new level, particularly with Microsoft's current
plan to release Kinect for the PC.
Asynchronous Tools: Asynchronous communication means that the various people in the
conversation do not have to be online at the same time. Email is an obvious example, but texting by
cell phone is much more prevalent among current traditional age students.
Many online classes use discussion forums, and they may be housed in LMS (Learning Management
Systems), social media (like LinkedIn or Facebook), or just on the web in a public forum (although
this has a variety of privacy issues). In fact, so many online instructors use discussion forums that
many students are bored and annoyed when they see yet another discussion forum when they
enter a new class. That is not a good way to start your class! I highly recommend using the
protocols in this handout to customize your forums.
Dakin Burdick, Center for Teaching Excellence, Endicott College, 2011 -- teaching@endicott.edu
Other asynchronous methods are wikis, blogs, RSS feeds, and Twitter. Online office hours are
typically held asynchronously, and these can be done with a restricted membership Twitter Account
or with a shared blog with an RSS feed that can be subscribed to by students through their cell
phones. GoogleDocs is also popular for group work restricted to one's class list.
When turning in written responses to the instructor, written responses should generally be in Word
97-2003 format (.doc), which is a format that is most easily readable regardless of the age and type
of the computer. When shared with a group, written responses should be in PDF format, as Adobe
Reader is available as a free download for all computers.
The first protocol is simply a student answer to a question, artifact or task posed by the instructor.
1. Critique: Students are asked to respond to a question, artifact or task posed by the instructor
or another student. These are typically used in large group discussions and are included here
primarily because the online equivalent is one of the basic building blocks of later online
Time required: 1-2 minutes per participant.
Online equivalent: Students are asked to post a response (usually asynchronously) to a
question or task posed by the instructor. Responses are posted on a shared space like a blog
or forum. When used in synchronous environments, Critiques will usually get less nuanced
The next six of these discussion protocols can be used in lectures of several hundred people to
create "participatory lectures."
2. Turn to Your Partner: Divide participants into pairs that will discuss the concept together.
This is the fastest way to have participants share their understanding of the topic and prepare
for a larger discussion.
Time required: 1-4 minutes.
Online equivalent: In a synchronous chat (on a CMS, Wimba, Connect, etc.), have pre-
assigned class partners. Partners go to private chat to discuss with each other.
3. Think-Pair: Give participants a minute to think about or write a personal response to the
concept under discussion. Then have participants turn to their partner and discuss.
Time required: 2-5 minutes.
Online equivalent: Same as Turn to Your Partner, but with 1 minute of individual writing first.
Alternatively, this can be turned into a Write-Share in which students write and then share
their written response in an asynchronous format. Students should be instructed to post
responses to their partner's response but is probably more efficient when students respond to
at least three responses by other students.
4. ConcepTest: Have participants take a minute to write down an answer to a question posed
by the instructor. Then have each participant turn to the person next to them. Participants
Dakin Burdick, Center for Teaching Excellence, Endicott College, 2011 -- teaching@endicott.edu
without a partner should either raise their hand and look for a partner near them, or (less
desirably) join another pair near them. Then for two minutes the participants then either try to
convince each other their answer is correct. After they have discussed, the instructor assesses
their answers (perhaps by a show of hands in response to a multiple choice question). In the
case of more complex problems, this process could be repeated several times for each of
whatever natural steps there are in solving a more complex problem.
Time required: usually 5 minutes.
Online equivalent: Use a Think-Pair and then have students return to the synchronous chat
and take an online survey. In the Wimba Classroom, one would use the formal polling tool.
One could also use SurveyMonkey or other online survey.
5. Think-Square: As with Think-Pair, but with four people (a Square).
Time required: 4-8 minutes
Online equivalent: As with Think-Pair but this time students are pre-assigned to Squares. The
members of the Square should be assigned by the instructor, either through random
assignment, or preferably as a result of pre-existing expertise (which may be determined at the
start of the class with a pre-test). Using the Write-Share described under Think-Pair would be a
way to apply this asynchronously.
6. Think-Pair-Share: As with Think-Pair above, but then have each pair combine with another
pair to form a larger group and share their thoughts.
Time required: 5-8 minutes
Online equivalent: As with Think-Pair, but with prearranged Squares (groups of four). Doing
the Think-Pair first can be cumbersome for a synchronous exercise, so instead just do a Think-
Square. For an asynchronous equivalent, use a Write-Share-Compare in which students write
papers individually and then post them to the teacher (for an individual grade) and to a shared
space where other students can access it. The second half of this assignment is for students to
read 2-3 of the other students' papers and then post a Critique of those papers. Allow 3-6
days for this sort of protocol.
7. Value Line (aka. Line-up): This discussion method gets the participants up and moving
around. It also makes a good icebreaker. The instructor either asks students to identify
themselves by a number (most years of experience, number of pets, etc.) or places two
oppositional stances (ex. Democrat vs. Republican) and asks students to talk to each other and
sort themselves into the correct positions. Once they are agreed as to their order, divide the
total number of students by 6 (or however many students you want in each group). That will
give you the number of small groups you will have. Then have the students (still lined up)
count off by that number (ex. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.). Then assign spots in the room to each group
and have them join their group. With the proper question for students to organize themselves
by, this method gives a heterogeneous mix in the groups.
Time required: Usually less than a minute per student.
Dakin Burdick, Center for Teaching Excellence, Endicott College, 2011 -- teaching@endicott.edu