Skip to content. Skip to navigation

Faculty Development

You are here: Home / Small Group Teaching / Structuring small group teaching

Structuring small group teaching

Richmond (1984) sets out five key roles of the teacher in terms of the ‘strategic interventions’ required to maintain the group as a functional unit.

  • Start and finish group work – keeping to time, ensuring outcomes and tasks are explained and that the activities draw to a close with learning needs being achieved.
  • Maintain the flow of content – ensuring learning follows in a logical sequence and providing stimulus materials and questions.
  • Manage group dynamics.
  • Facilitate goal achievement – of the wider curriculum, of the session and those identified by the learners themselves.
  • Manage group environment – both physical and psychological.

Small group sessions work well if there is a mix of activities and timings, with activities selected so that people can work individually, in different-sized groups and with and without teachers or facilitators. A rule of thumb is that real concentration on one activity, such as listening to someone talk, lasts around 10 minutes without a break or change of pace. It is important therefore to keep the session flowing, and concentration and learning occurring. This is facilitated by including breaks and opportunities to move around. However, it is equally important to allow time for groups to bond and work together on shared tasks and not to keep switching people round for the sake of it. We look at some of the different activities you can use further on in the module.

Here are some suggested timings and tasks for a 60-minute small group session which includes different types of learner and teacher-centred activities.

Timings and tasks a

Timings and tasks b

Thinking point

  • Looking at the structures above, what common features do you see for each of the sessions and what are your thoughts on the balance of teacher- and learner-centred activities?


Let us now go on to consider some of the types of event, and the tasks and techniques available to small group teachers.

Print module to PDF

Save a PDF of this module, so you can print it and read it in your own time.

Email your comments

Let us know what you think about this module or give us your feedback.

Further information

More information about this module, further reading and a complete list of glossary terms.

Learning activities

Read about the recommended learning activities for this module.