DoingCL - Roundtable/Brainstorming






The roundtable structure is a method of brainstorming ideas (Osborne, 1963). Brainstorming generates a large number of ideas in a short period of time. Explanations, evaluations, and questions are not permitted as the ideas are generated. To start, the instructor asks a question that has a large number of possible answers. Each group is given one piece of paper (or transparency). The paper is passed around the group and students write down their answers at the same time stating them out loud. This process continues until the students run out of possible solutions (Millis and Cottell, 1998). After the brainstorming, instructors give time for the team to review and clarify their ideas. If needed, the group can present the ideas generated to the rest of the class.

The roundtable structure is useful for newly formed groups because all students participate without needing to clarify their ideas. Also, using one sheet of paper (or transparency) promotes interdependence and encourages team-building.

Several variations exist: Instead of using this process in a small group, the class as a whole can brainstorm (although this is logistically difficult in large classes). The instructor can let students "pass" if they can't generate an idea though the instructor may limit the number of passes. A less structured roundtable involves brainstorming without methodically going around the group. Care is needed when loosening the structure as quieter people in new groups may not express their ideas.

Millis, B. J., and Cottell, P. G., Jr. (1998). Cooperative learning for higher education faculty, American Council on Education, Series on Higher Education. The Oryx Press, Phoenix, AZ.

Osborne, A. (1963). Applied imagination, 3rd ed, Scribner's, New York.

Doing CL
More Info