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Large group teaching

Lecturing is often seen as the main method for enabling large groups to learn effectively. The Small Group Teaching module provides examples of techniques and methods you can use to facilitate learning in small groups, many of which can be used within a lecture theatre, in workshop situations or in conferences and symposia.

One way of classifying techniques is in terms of large and small group teaching/learning and individual instruction. This classification can be used to indicate the role of the teacher and the types of instructional material that might be useful in each of the contexts. 


Class of techniques


Role of teacher, instructor, trainer

Large groups

Conventional lectures and expository lessons, workshops, conferences, symposia, lab classes, distance and online learning conferencing, teleconferencing, television and DVD/video, films

Traditional expository role; controller of instruction process. Some interaction possible, needs careful planning and specific interventions from the teacher/facilitator

Individualised instruction

Directed study (reading books, handouts, discovery learning), open learning, distance learning, programmed learning, mediated self-instruction, computer/web based learning, e-learning, one-to-one teaching, work shadowing, sitting by Nelly, mentoring

Producer/manager of learning resources, tutor and guide

Small group learning

Tutorials, seminars, group exercises and projects, games and simulations, role play, self-help groups, discussions

Organiser and facilitator

(Ellington and Race, 1993)

There is no hard or fast rule that makes a group ‘large’ or ‘small’, therefore a mixed methods approach that stimulates learning in different ways should be adopted for all teaching/learning activities.  It can be difficult to hold meaningful discussion involving all participants with more than 16–20 people, so depending on what you are trying to achieve, different techniques will be used.  In this module we will look at techniques to break a very large group into smaller groups to aid participation and learning.


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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.