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A social, interactive approach to learning where the tutor provides the framework for students to construct their own learning from their previous knowledge and experiences. Teaching is still key to the learning, but delivery is through guided dialogue and collaborative problem-solving. 

Key opportunities offered by small group teaching include greater flexibility, intensified teacher-student and student-student interaction, ability to foster reflection and develop autonomous learning and to tailor the sessions to students’ individual needs and interests.  

The emphasis in these sessions needs to be on facilitation of discussion, active participation by all students and developing peer learning and collaboration. 

Best Practice Tips

  1. Ensure as far as possible that the students are aware of the purpose of the session in advance so that they know what to expect and can prepare any reading, questions etc. in advance. 
  2. Be clear and explicit with students about your expectations of them and the purpose/aim of each session. 
  3. Build relationships – it is important to find out about the students’ previous experiences, understand their motivation and assess their knowledge. Build confidence so students feel comfortable in expressing their ideas/thoughts – possibly working in pairs then with the whole group. Acknowledge and value contributions to build confidence; however, any praise given must be genuine. Learn and use students’ names. 
  4. Manage group dynamics – it is more evident in smaller groups than larger groups. Tutor needs to be able to listen sensitively and lead the group. Bring your personality to the group, and model the kinds of behaviours you would like to see in pair work/discussion. 
  5. Be sensitive to the needs of the group – assess the contribution of each learner and be prepared to intervene to either help them to contribute more or to gain more from the activity. A useful approach is to use guided questioning, rather than simply telling students the answers.  
  6. Don’t worry if you don’t know everything. Share your specialisms and areas of expertise and use it as an opportunity to develop students’ research skills to find answers.  
  7. Foster reflection – it is good for every session to reflect with the students what went well to ensure that the students have reached the same understanding, and what problems has been left unsolved.  

Resources

Mills, D. and Alexander, P. (2013) Small Group Teaching: a toolkit for learning.

Exley, K., Dennick, R. and Fisher, A. (2019) Small Group Teaching: Tutorials, Seminars and Workshops. 2nd Edition. London: Routledge.