Skip navigation

Search Site
Printable Resources

Small Group Teaching Strategies

This Tutor Induction Pack is for both new and experienced tutors. The pack provides a range of methods, techniques and types of questions you can use in your tutorials.

This section will cover Enquiry and Problem-based learning, Game-based learning and Facilitating Small Groups.

Enquiry and Problem-based learning

Problem-based learning has been described as the most innovative form of teaching for the professions (Boud 1997). Enquiry and problem-based learning approaches are total approaches to learning where students are presented with a problem, challenge or trigger at the start of a learning process. Students work in small group tutorials on the problem and are facilitated by a tutor. Students acquire knowledge of their discipline/profession by working on real-life problems in teams. This develops the students’ key skills e.g. critical and creative thinking, teamwork, information literacy and communication skills in addition to specialist knowledge. 

In addition to alignment with learning outcomes, assessments are also aligned with the enquiry and problem-based learning process. Enquiry and problem-based learning are not mere teaching techniques; they embody a philosophy of learning that encourages students to be active and critical in learning from the discussions in tutorials and independent study. These approaches develop vibrant, challenging, exciting and dynamic learning environments in higher education.

Small Group Teaching Graphic

        Enquiry and Problem-based learning strategies as total six-dimensional approaches to education

For a practical guide to all aspects of enquiry and problem-based learning that includes discipline specific case studies, sample problems and assessments and a bibliography of further resources see Terry Barrett and Diane Cashman (eds) (2010)  A Practitioner’s Guide to Enquiry and Problem-Based Learning: Case Studies from University College Dublin.

For a resource that will give you new ideas for designing and implementing your problem-based learning initiatives download New Approaches to Problem-based Learning: Revitalising Your Practice in Higher Education. New York: Routledge. Some of the chapters were co-written by UCD staff e.g. Designing Problems and Triggers in Different Media by Terry Barrett, Diane Cashman and Sarah Moore, Designing Authentic PBL Problems in Multidisciplinary Groups by Marie Stanton and Majella McCaffrey and Shining a Spotlight on Students’ Information literacy in the PBL Process by Lorna Dodd, Eeva Liisa Eskola and Charlotte Silen.

Game based learning

Games offer a unique structure to complement traditional teaching strategies and infuse teaching with energy, spark, innovative thinking. They also provide diversity in teaching methods. Games make learning concepts more palatable for students and supply learners with a platform for creative ideas to bounce around. Games encourage creative behaviour and divergent thought (Fuszard, 2001) and are excellent ice breakers.  Games will often act as learning triggers inducing lively discussion on learning concepts amongst students following game play. 

As pedagogical devices, games are extremely useful - they can enliven teaching topics and are especially effective for dealing with problem solving and key concepts. Research shows that ‘games have a special role in building students’ self-confidence’ and ‘they can reduce the gap between quicker and slower learners’ ( Fuszard, 2001). For furher information see

Susan Boyle (2010) Icebreakers

Facilitating Small Groups

When you are introducing innovative teaching strategies with small groups icebreakers can be a good way to hekp students to get to know one another and to form as a group. See Icebreakersfor examples.

Group facilitation issues often emerge when introducing innovative approaches. For a practical guide to small group facilitation including the role of the group facilitator, stages in group work and conflict resolution see Rhonda Wynne (2005) Facilitation Skills: Working with Adult Learners



  • Boud, D. &  Feletti, G. (1991). The Challenge of Problem-based Learning. London: Kogan.
  • Fuszard, B. (2001). In Lowenstein, A.J. Bradshaw, M.J and Fuszard. B. (eds)   Fuszard's innovative teaching strategies in nursing. 3rd ed. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen Publishers.
T and L Community