Group Work in City’s Learning Spaces – Buzz Groups and Snowballs

Looking for creative teaching activities? Encourage students to work collaboratively and motivate each others learning, to clarify their understanding of course content and reflect on different peer perspectives. Take a look at the group work suggestions in our series of blog posts. We recommend booking City’s new Learning Spaces to run these activities.

1)      Buzz group

Why? This method gathers feedback quickly from all of the group, quieter students are all involved and students have more time to consider and discuss your questions more deeply. It builds students’ confidence by first engaging them in a small group discussion before moving onto a larger group. It also helps to improve communication skills and gauge student understanding, with the opportunity for them to share interpretations of information.

Technique; Ask students to discuss an issue as group of 2 or 3 and then ask the students to share their discussion with the group.

Technology; If you are teaching a large group of students you could prepare a presentation using PRS/Clickers so that students could feedback via the devices on specific questions after discussion in their small groups. This option offers instant feedback on whether students are understanding your content. Alternatively try using Poll Everywhere and asking the groups to nominate one group member to provide the groups answer via their mobile device. This introduces a bit of healthy competition to encourage students to engage with the activity. This method would also help with information recall.

Favourite room for the activity; D222 (22 seats)

Node chairs in AG24b

2)      Snowballs

Why? This method challenges and promotes debate, encouraging evaluation and synthesis of information. It’s quick and easy to set up and is useful for observing patterns and relationships within topics helping to narrow down a topic. It also develops decision making skills.

Technique; This technique builds knowledge incrementally. Provide each student with a basic task i.e. identifying some issues to resolve, undertaking some research on a topic, you could provide them with resources, i.e. ipads, essays, journals or suggest they use their own mobile device. Place students into pairs to compare and combine the information they have sourced, they should be slowly building up information, looking into more complex issues i.e. exploring solutions, finding pieces of research with differing opinions, prioritizing issues.  Lastly place the pairs into larger groups that will again share the information and develop it further ,encouraging them to use more complex skills such as synthesis, evaluation and assimilation.

Technology; Hire out some ipads to share amongst students or ask them to make use of their own mobile devices to research their topics during class.

Online suggestion; A variation of the class session would be the patchwork text assessment.

Favourite room for this activity; D222 (22 seats)

Snowball formatDetails of recommended learning spaces for these activities are found below;

  • Rooms with tables and chairs with castors and squiggle glass: A109 (35), A214 (30), AG08 (40), B307B/C (70), BLG08 (32), BM02 (25), BM03 (25), C340 (50), D104 (60) and E212 (60)
  • Collaborative style lecture theatre seating with squiggle glass- BLG07 (65) has fixed swivel seating
  • Learning rooms with Node chairs and squiggle glass: A112 (16) and D222 (22). AG24B (25 – SHS only).
  • Computer room with round cluster tables and moveable seating and squiggle glass: AG24A (30PCs – SHS 2-week booking priority).


Tip for group work! Try out some effective stop start strategies to easily end discussions and bring the focus back to you, i.e. hand signals, audio prompt, timer on the board.

For more ideas on group work activities in flexible learning spaces visit


This blog draws on the following works:

Surgenor, P. (2010) Teaching Toolkit in UCD Teaching and Learning Resources [online] Available from: (Accessed 02.05.14)
Quigley, A. (2010) Top Ten Group Work Strategies in Hunting English [blog] Available from: (Accessed 02.05.14)
University of Waterloo, n.d. Group Work in the Classroom: Types of Small Groups [online] Available from: (Accessed 02.05.14)

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