The Fishbowl task in the classroom

I have been thinking a lot about class participation since so many forms of it require students to be self motivated to be actively engaged. So, I looked up to get some ideas from McKeachie (2006) and came across what he calls the “Fishbowl” method (p. 48). In it, the class is divided into a smaller group and a larger group. Then the larger group observes the participation of the smaller group.
I also found a more structured version of the fishbowl activity online where students are graded for observing and participating.  There appear to be a plethora of links online to more structured variations.  I wonder if it could be effective with less structure.  Perhaps not rearranging the chairs but instead having smaller groups of observers and those being observed throughout the class.  For example, could a group of three be observed by a group of three.  Then the class split up that way.

I haven’t found any comments online on the effectiveness of this technique or its variations but I am interested how well it could be routinely and effectively implemented or if it is limited by the very structure it imposes.

McKeachie, W. J. (2006). McKeachie’s teaching tips: strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (12th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.


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