Skills for Effective Small-Group Teaching

Among important skills for teachers, those of listening, asking and answering questions and responding are paramount in small group settings.

Questioning

Good questioning techniques require continuing preparation, practice and reflection by students and teachers alike. Preparation of a repertoire of questions in advance will allow the teacher to work effectively and flexibly in the small group. Similarly, student-to-student interactions in groups is enhanced if students prepare questions at the outset or end of a class.

Questions may be categorised in different ways, such as:

Open

Closed

Broad

Reflective

Narrow

Recall

Clear

Probing

Confused

Superficial

Simple

Divergent

Complex

Convergent

How you as the facilitator ask a question is important in fostering student responses this includes both the tone of your voice and your body language as well as the timing of your questions and the use of pause and silence.

Listening

The process of listening is an active one that calls into play a number of thinking functions including analysis, comprehension, synthesis and evaluation.

Your listening skills may be developed by thinking about all the levels of a students’ comment in this way:

    what is said: the content

    how it is said: tone and feelings

    when it is said: time and priority

    where it is said: place and environment.

Through your teaching practice you will be able to listen attentively and build up your expertise in this area and encourage your students to listen to one another as well.

Responding

Listening in silence by paying undivided attention to the speaker is an active process, engaging and heightening awareness and observation.

Appropriate responses are usually made when the tutor has considered not only the cognitive aims of the session but also the interpersonal needs of the group and the individual learner’s level of confidence and knowledge. Different responses will have different consequences for the individual student and for the behaviour of the group as a whole. Therefore, an appropriate response can only be deemed appropriate in the context of the particular small group teaching session (Griffiths, 2009, pp. 81- 83).