Online Synchronous Small Group Discussions: Proceed with Caution!

I had the most interesting learning experience last week. 

My professor, a direct decedent of educators of educators, expertly maneuvered his class into small online synchronous learning groups of four students last Wednesday night.  In my case at least, I ended up in a group with four headstrong educated women. (Can anyone say, “Danger Zone”.)

Anyway, our professor even had the nerve to force upon us his expectation of critical thinking among group members. He told us to engage in a “Think-Pair-Share” (Kaddoura, 2013) group discussion activity about what we learned during his soft systems methodology online lecture and associated required readings. (My. Oh, my.)

The great learning and cognition “masters” would have stood up and given him a roaring round of applause.  That guy (my professor) really nailed us to the wall. (Humph.)

On the Subject of Small Group Dynamics

It went as theorists predicted.  Sudria, Redhana, Kirna, and Aini (2018) would not have been surprised that our group immediately began “storming” (Sudria, Rehana, Kirna, & Aini, 2018) for positions.  Kolb (2009) would have winked his eye as the two converging learning styles (I refuse to self-identify) quickly emerged and begin fighting for turf as alpha female (Kolb, 2009). Vygotsky (1978) would have chuckled during their back and forth as they fought for the coveted “More Knowledgeable Other facilitator seat (Vygotsky, 1978).  Habermas (1984) would have gotten a hoot when the clouds finally cleared and our group began engaging in constructive negotiations (Habermas, 1984).  And, Mezirow (1998) would have patted our professor on the back after our group of ladies finally calmed down and began deepening our learning through orderly, insightful, and respectful critical reflections (Mezirow, 1998).

Knowing When to Say “When …”

While the convergers threw punches, I realize now that the most influential member of our group was the quite insightful, and attentive, assimilator.  She sat quietly through the battle for several minutes before softly speaking up to hand the throne to the converger urging our group to “simply follow” our professor’s instructions. (Hey. Maybe I will self-identify.)

But, I also gained much respect for the accommodator who earned points by just sitting back and not saying a word until the dust settled. Her strategy forced us to sit still while she shared her reflections, opinions, and reflections when the fight was over. Had there been a diverging learning style in our group, she probably would have done the same.

Yes. It was an interesting night of learning and metacognition.  Plus, we got that job done. 

Success! Mission accomplished!

Higher-order thinking skills mission achieved!

Jennie’s Perspective

As a scholar-under-construction, I enjoy those moments when theory is forced to meet practice head on in a street fight and – prevail!

With each doctoral course I complete, I gain more and more respect for the “masters” who have dominated our field of learning and cognition, even posthumously, for decades. With each lesson, I gain increased awareness as to why the body of knowledge thinks so highly of Kolb, Habermas, Mezirow, Sudria, Redhana, Kirna and Aini, and Vygotsky.  These guys knew their stuff.

Therefore, I argue that the old saying is true.  Knowledge is indeed ageless.  Moreover, wisdom is more precious than gold.

I’m just sayin’ …


Habermas, J. (1984). The Theory of Communicative Action, Vol. 1,’Reason and the Rationalization of Society’.

Kaddoura, M. (2013). Think pair share: a teaching learning strategy to enhance students’ critical thinking. Educational Research Quarterly36(4), 3-24.

Kolb, A. Y., & Kolb, D. A. (2009). The Learning Way: Meta-cognitive Aspects of Experiential Learning. Simulation & Gaming, 40(3), 297–327.

Mezirow, J. (1998). On critical reflection. Adult education quarterly48(3), 185-198.

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Interactions between learning and development. In Mind and Society (pp. 79-91). Retrieved from

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