At a Glance


  • STEM
  • Engineering

Instructional Level

  • University


  • Materials Engineering

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Group
  • Whole Class

Type of Tasks

  • Discussing

Technical Details

Class size

  • Large (100-250)


  • Single class period (< 90 mins)

Instructional Purpose

  • Application & knowledge building


The aim of this activity is to grab the attention of students in class and have them work on problems related to material just presented, or review material.

At several points during the lecture, the instructor announces that the class will do a “Talk to your neighbour” activity. The questions can either be embedded in her/his slides or made up on the spot spontaneously if the instructor sees that it is needed. In the latter case, she/he poses the question and, as students are answering it, she/he writes the question on the board so that it is clear. The questions are intended to be challenging so that sometimes the class is not able to answer it and sometimes involve “real life” situations.

The types of question used are as follows:

  • Predicting a phenomenon or trend based on what was just explained in class
  • Recalling previous knowledge from the lecture or from a different class
  • Solving a problem.

Students discuss with a group of students around them the answer to the question.

The students are given a few minutes to discuss.

The instructor then asks several groups to the answer the question (letting the students decide who will speak). During this time, she will review why responses are correct or incorrect. There is a general discussion that goes on about the question and the instructor provides time for students to ask questions.

This activity was used in a class of 100 students.

Instructional Objectives

To test the knowledge and understanding of the course concepts or facts.

Workflow & Materials


Activity Workflow

View on CourseFlow

Contributor's Notes

Marta Cerruti

Marta Cerruti

McGill University, Montreal, QC


This activity breaks up the class and allows students to engage throughout; this activity brings the students attention back if it has been lost. Students get to discuss the answer with others who have different levels of knowledge and ability. The students are learning a lot in class so there is less time spent studying at of class.


Sometimes students are shy to speak, particularly if English is their second language. Sometimes students are put on the spot even though the intention is not to do so.


Make the classroom a safe space so that students are more likely to participate. Specifically, make it clear that there is no wrong or right answers and wrong answers are actually welcomed because other students can learn from them. if a safe space is established in the class, then you are more likely to gain more and more student participation as the semester goes one. Be careful to minimize putting students on the spot.


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