Zoom breakout rooms are a teaching tool being used more frequently as universities invest in the application and as instructors become more familiar in setting up and using the breakout rooms.
Having students work in breakout rooms can provide a change of pace in class and enable more students to engage actively in class.
As a member of the University of Florida’s Graduate Student Teaching Awards Committee, I have observed graduate students utilizing Zoom breakout rooms in a wide range of subject areas. Whereas instructors typically only make brief visits to breakout rooms during class, I have been able to observe the full time students are in a breakout room.
Based on my observations, I’m offering a few suggestions for using Zoom breakout rooms.
Develop an effective breakout room assignment.
Creating a good breakout room assignment is like creating a good small group discussion activity for face-to-face classes. Consider what a small group discussion will accomplish in a more productive way than a full-class discussion.
Before class met yesterday, the 14 students in Mass Communication Teaching were names on a roster. I knew only one of them.
By the end of class, not only did I have a face to go with every name but I knew some important information about each student, including his/her previous teaching and work experience and educational background. Getting to know the class members can be accomplished by having students fill out an information sheet (paper or digital) or by having student share information in class introductions. As this is a small class, we could have the individual sharing.
In a small-group activity, each group was asked to develop a list of key issues related to teaching in higher education. The four teams’ lists are pictured above. We used the lists to begin our semester-long discussion about teaching issues, from motivating students to being fair in grading to figuring out how to use technology effectively.
This small group activity accomplished several objectives:
The students had the opportunity to get to know the other members of their group. Most of the students are in their first semester of graduate school, so they didn’t know each other.
The activity helped provide variety in a three-hour class time block.
Everyone had the opportunity to share ideas. Even though a class of 14 is a small class, time would not have allowed everyone to have had the opportunity to talk if we had stayed as a large group.
I was able to see what some of their concerns are as teachers and can address those issues during the semester.