Enabling students to understand and analyse contemporary issues in science and technology

Small group discussion

Why use small group discussion?

  • Students enjoy it
  • It allows active involvement by everyone
  • The shy and less articulate are more able to contribute
  • Students learn from each other
  • Everyone gets more practice at expressing their ideas
  • A two way discussion is almost always more creative than individual thoughts
  • Social skills are practiced in a 'safe' environment e.g. tolerance, cooperation
  • Discussion is essential to clarify arguments for a topic where there are no 'right answers'

Hints on running small group discussion

  • Make sure that the task is clear and has definite product which has to be communicated back.
  • Make sure they have enough knowledge and resources to complete the task.
  • Don't let it run for too long. Some groups will stray off task.
  • Drop in on groups for short periods with support or challenge as appropriate.
  • Make sure that seating allows everyone in the group to see each other, best round a table not side by side.
  • Do not allow one group to become too noisy. They will attract interest from other groups, who will then lose their own identity.
  • Normally groups work best with friends because they trust them but be prepared to break up groups which are not working. Some members will be pleased.
  • Allow time for feedback at the end and value the contributions of all groups.

Suggested activities
1.2 HIV discussion statements
1.3 Mumbai
1.3 Car of the future
1.5 Discussing animal ethics