Group Assignments

Small Class Size That Can’t Break Out of Their Shells?

Have you ever had a small class that somewhat inhibited effective group class exercises?  I am not sure if this is a common problem, but here is what has happened with me:

I break students out into groups of 3-4 to work on a problem

Everyone can hear everyone else’s conversation

Students talk quietly so as not to disturb each other

The energy is so low that you could hear a pin drop

There are no real breakthroughs when we come back together as a group to discuss

This term I am teaching a class at 5PM with 16 students and when we broke out into groups for our first brainstorm last week, everyone was afraid to talk because everyone could hear everyone else.  It was an absolute disaster.  I mean, it was dismal.

A few weeks ago, I discovered research that determined the noise that produced the greatest productivity and creativity was that of a coffee house.  You can read more about it here in the article “Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition” in the Journal of Consumer Research:

Well it turns out a group of entrepreneurs created a site where they have recorded coffee house noise available for free:

This week in class I had another breakout session planned.  I thought perhaps this coffee house soundtrack could help.  I explained the rationale behind the coffee house noise to the class and played it during our breakout work. The results were fantastic!  The bubbling sound of the coffee house in the background helped students feel less inhibited in their discussions and the ideas blossomed!

All you have to do is pull up the site ( on the computer in the classroom and play whichever track suits your preference. They have several tracks to choose from.  Hope this is helpful!

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