Sunday, August 26, 2007

Structures for small groups reporting out to whole group (Protocols Part 4)

As I've mentioned before in this blog, I like to use small group activities in my courses, both on-campus and online. In my June 27, 2007 post, I described a few common reporting out structures that I use in the classroom. Below I describe the adjusted versions of those structures, used to help avoid boring report outs in online courses. These strategies – Rotating Threads (modified from Rotating Stations), Snowballing Threads, and Jigsaw Threads – involve students in small group discussions, while allowing for the benefits of reporting out in different ways than posting and reading summaries.

Note: The descriptions below assume the use of asynchronous threaded discussion forums, but you can use these same structures for synchronous discussions using chatrooms instead of forums. Especially consider using these structures synchronously when you have limited time.

Rotating Threads
  1. Set up threaded discussion forums, with a different provocative issue to discuss in each forum.
  2. In groups of 4-5, have students rotate to a new forum. In terms of timing, you could have each group spend one day in a forum – e.g., Forum A on Monday, Forum B on Tuesday, and so on.
  3. Have each group record their ideas about the issue in the forum.
  4. Once groups have rotated to each forum, give students time to revisit all of the forums to see what other groups posted.

Snowballing Threads

  1. Discussion starts with small group discussions, with each small group having their own discussion forum.
  2. After designated amount of time, each small group joins with another group in a new forum.
  3. After designated amount of time, each larger group joins with another group in a new forum, and so on, until the whole group comes together into the same forum.

Jigsaw Threads

  1. Groups of 4-5 students become experts on a particular issue/topic. Each group of experts has their own discussion forum to work in as they develop their expertise. Depending on the topic, and level of desired depth of expertise, this could take one week.
  2. Form new groups. Each new group includes an expert from one of the original groups. These new groups have their own discussion forum.
  3. Experts lead new group in an online discussion on their area of expertise. Again, depending on the topic and desired depth, each expert could lead a discussion over one day to one week.

Related posts in this blog:
Discussion ground rules
Don’t jump into discussions
Engaging quieter online students
Small groups reporting out to the large group?
Karma (or inspiration) points for discussion assessment
Beyond debates and conversational roles (Protocols Part 1)
Structures for asynchronous online discussions (Protocols Part 2)
Structures for synchronous online discussions (Protocols Part 3)

1 comment:

Ellen said...

I often use this strategy and always ask students for feedback on the process following their stint as the "expert." Most of them give high praise for the process. One caveat from my classes.. these are graduate students working in base-groups during the semester.