Synthesize it

In this teaching method students exchange knowledge with each other in a relatively short period of time. Firstly they summarize the subject matter in a small group. Secondly the summaries are passed on to the next group for further improvement.

Activity goal
Activate prior knowledge | Assess | Brainstorm | Exchange knowledge | Recap / Summarize | Reflect
In class
Hybrid | Offline | Online
> 60 minutes
Group size
Small | Medium

Flipovers, pens, markers, breakout rooms in Zoom or MS Teams

Step 1

Students study the subject matter prior to the teaching session.

Step 2

Divide the students into smaller groups of 3-5 students.  

Step 3

Divide the subject matter in as many sub-topics as there are groups and distribute them. Make sure you think of a convenient way to share the documents with different groups in advance. The Tools and materials section below contains some ideas.

Step 4

Give students the assignment to discuss the topic and summarise it within a certain period of time (e.g. 15 minutes). Questions and unclarities should also be noted down.  Every group delivers a summary plus their questions.

Step 5

After 15 minutes each topic with summary and possible questions is passed on to the next group. This time each group is given 5-10 minutes to complement and improve the existing summary (synthesis). They also get the opportunity to add questions about the topic.

Step 6

You can pass the topics on to the next group three or four times. After this, all synthesized documents are shared and all students can view the input. 

Step 7

To close the session, discuss the outcome of the synthesised papers together with the group and find out which information is missing or is insufficiently detailed. Collected questions can be addressed in the same or next session.


  • This teaching method can be used online, offline or in a hybrid form. Offline, you work in a room with flipcharts. Online, students work in breakout rooms and in a document/whiteboard. For the hybrid form, you can create both online and offline groups. Have both groups work in a digital document that is shared with each other at the end of each round. 

  • You can also use statements or questions as topics for students to respond to and discuss.

Consider the tools and materials mentioned here as suggestions. In many cases it’s possible to use alternative tools. Please turn to the Learning & Innovation team of your faculty (EUR or EMC) first to see which online and offline tools are available and how to apply them. 

In this teaching session you have several small groups working on a summary of one topic. After 15 minutes the summaries will be passed on to the next group in order to improve them. In Teams you could consider to already make "empty" summary documents per topic and post these in the Teams channel. This way all students that are part of the Teams channel are able to open the document and continue working on it. After the session, all members of the Teams channel have access to all synthesized summaries. Canvas and Zoom also offer possibilities to share documents.


Flipovers, pens and markers in various colours.


Use breakout rooms in MS Teams or Zoom


Use a screen and a computer to share the input of the online group with the offline group.

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