Synchronous activities require different skills compared to asynchronous ones. The more silent learners will benefit from asynchronous discussions where they have time to reflect before answering. If you have a brainstorming session or an active discussion, consider giving silent learners the responsibility to summarise or analyse the session in a written report or as a presentation.
Here are some ideas to get everyone involved from the start.
- Introduce rules to ensure that everyone gets a chance to speak and that everyone is listened to. Help the group decide on these group rules.
- Develop question skills to help colleagues explain what they really mean.
- Allow learners to contribute using different media (text, video, audio) and set assignments that allow learners to adapt to different media, i.e. not always text answers.
- Encourage all participants to take on different roles from time to time: for example asking the most active participants to take a back seat in a synchronous session, taking notes or developing a mindmap of the discussion.
- Encourage active listening skills by asking certain participants to write reflective blog posts after a discussion.
- Let silent learners be responsible for summarising and reflecting on the week’s course activities. This role should be circulated around all learners but the silent learners can be role models for the others to learn from.
- Get everybody in the same boat, making sure that everybody knows the expectations, understands the instructions and can use the required tools.
- All learners should write some kind of reflective learning journal (eg blog) where they focus on their own learning process and practice reflection and silent learning skills.
- Use more formative assessment and develop peer review. Provide guidelines to help learners to give constructive feedback to each other.