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Published:October 12th, 2011 12:34 EST
Integrating Small Group Sessions Or Break Outs Can Help Bring New Perspective to Any Gathering

Integrating Small Group Sessions Or Break Outs Can Help Bring New Perspective to Any Gathering

By Axel Meierhoefer (Mentor/Columnist)

Whether hosting brainstorming sessions at a business meeting or teaching a group of students, integrating small group sessions or break outs can help bring new perspective to any gathering. Not only does this method help keep participants interested in the topic at hand, but it also gives them to opportunity to engage in the learning process and participate in productively finding solutions. 

There are several advantages to placing students and professionals in small groups. Breaking down the barriers of a company or classroom`s hierarchy can lead participants to feel more comfortable sharing ideas or discussing why past ideas didn`t necessarily work. Having the opportunity for each person`s voice to be heard can be very validating in contrast to a lecture-type setting where ideas are called for in front of an entire audience of peers.

Breaking a larger group into several small groups can also be very effective when each group is given one or two specific issues to focus on, allowing them time to thoroughly work through ideas and determine which are really substantive. Having to explain and convince other small group members of why an idea works can effectively help weed out the good ideas from the ineffective.

Small group work can also breed better interaction among colleagues by taking each person out of their typical setting or comfort zone and allowing them to understand their peers` perspectives. Students who may feel detached from fellow classmates can also learn from and connect with their peers, consequently benefitting from a collaborative learning environment they may not have sought out on their own.

This kind of interaction can also teach participants to work through disagreements in theory or perspective in constructive ways, with the safe environment of a meeting room or classroom to discuss their reasoning without fear of judgment or repercussion.

Lastly, small group work caters to people with different learning styles and preferences. It allows opportunities for them to participate in a variety of tasks and activities not usually available in the more formal settings of lectures and seminars. Stimulating each of the senses by talking, writing, sharing and creating visual explanations of group conclusions can bring a truly great idea to light for not only each participant, but the group as a whole.

Each of these scenarios ultimately benefits the company or classroom, as people engage and connect with fellow participants in learning and sharing to reach a common goal: the betterment of themselves and/or their company.


Coyne P. and Coyne S., March 2011 Seven Steps to Better Brainstorming, McKinsey Quarterly