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The First Class: Using Icebreakers to Facilitate Transition in a Tertiary Environment



Transitioning to university can be difficult and encompasses many changes. This paper is concerned with identifying how initial student experiences on campus can be enhanced in order to influence students’ perception of university. Universities are now under pressure to develop in graduates a wide range of skills, and we highlight the fact that equal emphasis needs to be placed on successful academic and social integration. Research reflecting processes to develop the concept of “social support” and overcome the feeling of “not belonging” at university is scarce. In this paper the concept of icebreakers in the first weeks of student university experience is explored. Icebreakers can also be used as students move to new learning situations through their learning journey. We trialled icebreaking activities in a workshop program designed to facilitate student engagement and develop particular graduate skills. Practical examples from both across and within disciplines are provided. Comments from workshop participants highlight the outcomes of these activities and provide criteria for success. Asian Social Science Vol. 7, No. 4; April 2011
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The First Class: Using Icebreakers to Facilitate Transition in a
Tertiary Environment
Marie Kavanagh (Corresponding author)
Faculty of Business, University of Southern Queensland
PO Box 4196, Springfield Central, Queensland 4300, Australia
Tel: 61-7-3470-4514 E-mail:
Marilyn Clark-Murphy
Faculty of Business and Law, Edith Cowan University
270 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup, Western Australia 6027, Australia
Tel: 61-8-6304-0000 E-mail:
Leigh Wood
Faculty of Business and Economics, Macquarie University
Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia
Tel: 61-2-9850-4756 E-mail:
Received: February 1, 2011 Accepted: February 23, 2011 doi:10.5539/ass.v7n4p84
Support for this project was provided by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council, an initiative of the
Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. The views expressed in
this paper do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Learning and Teaching Council Ltd.
Transitioning to university can be difficult and encompasses many changes. This paper is concerned with
identifying how initial student experiences on campus can be enhanced in order to influence students’ perception
of university. Universities are now under pressure to develop in graduates a wide range of skills, and we
highlight the fact that equal emphasis needs to be placed on successful academic and social integration. Research
reflecting processes to develop the concept of “social support” and overcome the feeling of “not belonging” at
university is scarce. In this paper the concept of icebreakers in the first weeks of student university experience is
explored. Icebreakers can also be used as students move to new learning situations through their learning journey.
We trialled icebreaking activities in a workshop program designed to facilitate student engagement and develop
particular graduate skills. Practical examples from both across and within disciplines are provided. Comments
from workshop participants highlight the outcomes of these activities and provide criteria for success.
Keywords: Icebreakers, Transition to University, Student experience, Business education
1. Introduction
Students enter university programs for disparate reasons (Batchelor, 2006; Briggs, 2006) with different
expectations about what their experience is going to be like (Crisp et al., 2009; Kuh, Gonyea, & Williams, 2005),
and how they will spend their first year at university (Kuh & Pace, 1999). In this paper we concentrate on the
first interaction with students in a class setting with the use of “icebreaking” activities to create a vibrant,
inclusive learning environment and develop enthusiasm in order to “hook” students into the university
environment and discipline area. Icebreaking activities are designed to establish common ground in the first class,
get students to introduce themselves to others and talk to others in a semi-structured “fun” environment.
Effective delivery of the icebreaking session requires a competent facilitator (lecturer) who engages students in
simple activities (for example, find someone who has a brother) in order to encourage students to interact. While Asian Social Science Vol. 7, No. 4; April 2011
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these activities can be adapted to online environments, we will focus in this paper on face-to-face activities. As
the time allowed for face-to-face learning continues to reduce into the future, the importance of the quality of
face-to-face interaction and subsequent online interaction will increase further.
In this paper we will use the term “icebreaker” to cover activities designed to help students meet each other and
transition to their new learning environment when they start at university or when they move to a new learning
In all learning, more than content is being taught. We are inducting students into a discipline, a way of thinking
and a way of working with others and understanding how they themselves prefer to work. We are working with
knowledge and with people; both are important. We will consider the relationships between the student and
teacher; student and student; and assist students to understand themselves. We will show how to develop and
adapt icebreaking activities to introduce students to content areas, particularly in business.
Studies of first year students both in Australia and the UK (McInnis, James, & Hartley, 2000; Trotter & Roberts,
2006) suggest that the first class in first year is our opportunity to create a positive learning atmosphere for the
rest of the semester – and perhaps the rest of a student’s experience at university. Indeed the first year has been
shown to be the most critical in shaping persistence decisions. While the experiences in our classrooms are
influenced by external conditions such as the enrolment processes, expectations from peers, physical
environment and so on, in this paper we concentrate on the learning conditions in the first classroom and
introduce the concept of icebreakers as a means of easing the transition and enhancing outcomes for students.
1.1 Learning environment – content
The first class provides an opportunity to set expectations for learning in the subject: “The first class meeting is
often a defining moment in a course: it establishes expectations and an implicit learning contract on the part of both
students and lecturer.” Holden (2004, p. 4) The first class also sets expectations for interaction – the classroom as a
social as well as a learning place – and sets up conditions for the class to work productively.
Icebreakers assist the teacher to show enthusiasm about the content area and learning, and about the students
themselves. One way to do this is to make a link with prerequisite knowledge and relate the content to what a
student will be familiar with. Particularly in first year, it helps with learning if the lecturer describes links between
the unit and the profession that a student may be working towards. Several studies show that students demonstrate
a deeper learning approach if they are aware of the outcome of their learning (Wood & Solomonides, 2008; Reid et
al., 2005).
For students in later years, icebreakers can review content from previous study, for example:
What were the three most important things you learned in (prerequisite subject)? Why?
Knowledge gets rusty fast – why?
These quick icebreakers can lead into discussions about learning and how best to learn in your subject. At best it
can lead to a discussion on the nature of knowledge in your discipline area.
1.2 Learning environment – relationships
The main relationships we will concentrate on in this paper are: the student-teacher; student-student; and the
students learning about themselves. Developing relationships is an important part of learning: what all first
sessions in a unit have in common is that they signify the beginning of a relationship between the teacher and
students, and between student and student. How the session unfolds sets the pattern for later interactions (McKay,
With the reduction in the number of hours for face-to-face learning, we need to find ways to make connections
between people quickly and effectively in large and small groups. Icebreakers are an effective way to create
these connections and can contribute to a positive learning environment as well as introduce important content.
Students will also make a judgement about their participation and whether it is safe for them to contribute: it is
our role to set conditions where students will feel safe to take risks and actively participate in class activities.
The use of icebreakers can also contribute to developing cultural awareness and tolerance, breaking down
barriers, and overcoming isolation and loneliness.
1.3 Alignment
Design of curriculum involves many aspects: the learning materials, tasks, assessment and relationships. How do
these align? To take an extreme example, our learning objectives may be to develop critical thinking and
teamwork but our assessment tasks are all individual and require rote learning. Clearly the assessment and the Asian Social Science Vol. 7, No. 4; April 2011
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learning objectives are not aligned. Students’ every experience of the subject must give a consistent (aligned)
message and this is established in the first class. Our use of icebreakers aligns with learning objectives that work
to establish trust and participation in the community of scholars and set the scene for a collaborative learning
The paper is structured as follows. The background to the study is discussed in section two. In section three,
factors influencing the context (including the need to develop graduate attributes and skills) and the workshop
are outlined. Section four presents examples of icebreaker activities, drawn primarily from the workshop
designed to develop and assess the graduate skills of business students in Australia (,
which was funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC). In section five, the success of the
icebreaking activities and student reactions as evidenced by quotes from the workshop participants are presented.
A discussion of the process and outcomes concludes the paper.
2. Background
The transition to university and its challenges are well recognised (Krause et al., 2005; James, Krause, &
Jennings, 2010), highlighting the many changes required to shift into university environments of academic and
student life (Harvey, Drew, & Smith, 2006). There is sometimes a considerable difference between the students’
expectations and the experience that institutions offer (Crisp et al., 2009). The first year experience may have
significant consequences for student attrition and failure, in turn affecting university reputations and finances
(Wilcox, Winn, & Fyvie-Gauld, 2005). Expectations of what it will be like to be a university student play a
determining role in student attitudes towards study and in the quality of their experience and achievement levels.
James, Krause and Jennings (2010) found that the school-to-university transition appears to be improving in
quality and half of the students felt that school is preparing them well for university. This was not the case,
however, for students from rural areas and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. The changing role of
universities and the growing diversity of students entering universities have highlighted the ongoing demand for
research into the first year transition process.
Studies of Australian first year students (McInnis, James, & Hartley, 2000; Krause et al., 2005; James, Krause,
& Jennings, 2010) show that initial experiences on campus are important and influence students’ persistence in
higher education. There is also general agreement in the literature that a high proportion of students either
withdraw or fail because of adjustment or environmental factors, rather than because of intellectual difficulties
(Tinto, 1996). Pitkethly and Prosser (2001) suggest that a coordinated, informed response to transition issues will
improve the learning experience of all first year students. Jamelski (2009) suggests that first year experience
programs are essential and can have marked effects on student grade point averages (GPA) and retention. While
it is easy to blame this new generation of students for falling retention rates, it is far more productive to
concentrate on those issues that impact on retention and how we as academics can alter the environment that
students encounter.
This is not only true in first year but in each new learning situation. Transitions are inherently challenging, as
illuminated by the separationtransitionreincorporation phases identified by Bridges (2003). Separation is the
move away from established beliefs and values; transition is the in-between stage where ambiguity may be
experienced; and reincorporation is the stage where the individual becomes accepting of and accepted by the
new context of being. Given the nature of each stage, it is hardly surprising that transition involves emotional
challenges. Reid and Solomonides (2007, p. 31) describe students moving through “cognitive and emotional
borders” as students focus their attention on different parts of their anticipated professional and internal life,
depending on whether they focus on some future profession, or being a learner, or being a student at university.
Students’ decisions to withdraw are significantly affected by the degree of their intellectual and social integration
into the life of the institution (Krause et al., 2005; James, Krause, & Jennings, 2010). The concept of “not
belonging” is becoming a prevalent theme in accounts of the first year student experience at university (Palmer,
Kane, & Owens, 2009; Solomon, 2007). Crissman-Ishler and Schreiber (2002) examined students’ experiences
of “friendsickness” during the early phases of university life, while Johnson (1994) suggested that a student’s
psychological state is strongly associated with student withdrawal, and further that transition depends on how
students rebuild friendship networks. Peat, Dalzeil and Grant (2001) found that a workshop to develop peer
networks facilitated the formation of social networks and peer groups, which eased the transition to university.
Wilcox, Winn and Fyvie-Gauld (2005) suggest that to improve higher education student retention, equal
emphasis needs to be placed on successful integration into the social world of university as into the academic
world, and that social ties, developed through living and associating with compatible friends, are central to the
issue of transition. Asian Social Science Vol. 7, No. 4; April 2011
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Students report a need for both physical and social opportunities, and spaces for making contact with others
(social integration). For example, international students experience loneliness and adjustments to new learning
situations; problems with contributing in class where language is difficult; wanting an international experience;
and seeking opportunities and skills to be able to interact (Krause et al., 2005). This is particularly important
given the growing number of first-generation students as well as a widening of the gap in relation to
understanding the role of the university (Skyrme, 2007). Palmer, O’Kane and Owens (2009) discuss the concept
of turning-point experiences in the transition process. They suggest that universities are now placing emphasis
on dealing with issues such as creating a sense of community through increased social activities and
opportunities both with peer groups and other students and involving students in university life in group
projects or extra-curricula activities. These activities are designed to overcome students’ feelings of not
belonging to university life.
Research into graduates’ reflections on their experience at university shows that many graduates would have
appreciated an opportunity to meet with others in their class (Wood & Reid, 2005). Our paper seeks to draw on
the work of Solomon (2007) regarding the notion of not belonging, and Palmer, O’Kane and Owens’ (2009)
findings about the turning points that allow students to make meaningful connections to fit into university life.
3. Context
Recent shifts in education and labour market policy have resulted in universities being placed under increasing
pressure to produce employable graduates with governments (particularly in the UK, Australia and Canada)
making public funding for universities contingent upon demonstrable graduate outcomes. Employers now expect
that graduates will commence employment with a broader range of attributes and vocational skills to
complement their technical skills. As a result, universities have begun to focus on developing generic skills in
students that might make them appealing to multiple employers across multiple work contexts and disciplines
(Bridgstock, 2009). An emphasis has been placed on the production of “work-ready” graduates, competent in
their disciplinary field and able to cope in a changing work environment (Barrie, 2006). Oliver (2008) observed
that, “the attributes for success in commencing and advancing in a career and being an effective ‘global citizen’
are communication, teamwork, problem solving, self-management, planning and organising, technology,
life-long learning, initiative, enterprise and the raft of skills generally called ‘emotional intelligence’.” (p. 1) In
spite of the push to change the focus in terms of skills development in universities, the development of these
skills has remained problematic (Green, Hammer, & Star, 2009). For example, in a report compiled for the
Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) in the UK, Archer and Davison (2008) documented the fact
that, despite 86% of employers considering good communication skills to be important, many are dissatisfied
with the ability of graduates to express themselves effectively.
The need to incorporate the development of graduate skills becomes evident. An Australian Learning and
Teaching Council (ALTC) grant was provided to seven universities to conduct a project titled “Embedding the
Development and Grading of Generic Skills in the Business Curriculum” as part of a larger project to assess
graduate skills ( A major activity of the project was holding a workshop with five
students from each of the seven universities coming together to trial various deliverables of the project, including
the icebreaker activities as well as case studies designed to enhance the expertise of the students in the skill areas
of ethical practice, critical thinking, teamwork and sustainability. From that project the icebreaker examples
listed in the next section have been refined as engagement activities. It is important to note that while these
examples of activities are applicable to tertiary education in general, they have been developed and trialled in
business education in Australia.
4. Examples of icebreaker activities
The principal purpose of icebreakers is to get students talking to each other about as many different aspects of
their lives and backgrounds as possible. This obviously facilitates communication, but it also makes students
aware of the similarities and differences among them. For example, in a class with a good mix of international
students, the “siblings” exercise below will find most Chinese students in the “only child” group and many
African students in the “or more” group. Icebreakers can also be targeted to achieve a specific purpose for
example, introducing group work – and can be made or designed to be discipline specific. Examples of all these
activities are included. Wherever possible the lecturer should participate in the icebreakers, since the students
need to feel at ease and get to know something about you. It is also an important means of understanding the
demographics of your class and getting to know students individually. Asian Social Science Vol. 7, No. 4; April 2011
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4.1 Getting to know the group
Ask students to form groups in a number of different
ways. Then allow five minutes for discussion, after which
they move to the next grouping.
Make sure you give students
to introduce themselves within their
groups before moving
the next. The groupings you choose should not be complex and should include things
that students can easily relate to and that are relevant to both the students’ personal life and their university life.
Specifics will depend on the nature of your group but could include:
Form a group with other students majoring in the
discipline as
Are you studying full or part time? Form a group
others doing the
Find all the students born in the same month as you.
Point to the four walls of the room and tell students to gather on each wall based on certain criteria, for
o Do you have a cat, a dog, both, neither.
o Do you have no siblings, one, two, more.
o Your ideal relaxation is reading, socialising with friends, gardening, sport.
These types of groupings can also be related to the content you are about to teach. For instance, in a marketing
class you might ask students to group by specific brands; their favourite soft drink, the car they drive and so on.
In a finance class you could group by usage of particular financial products or services. The complexity of the
group “names” will depend on the knowledge level of the students and what they should be able to respond to.
Pick a student born close to your current location, ask all other students to form a circle so that the next
person born near to the current location is on the first student’s right and the person born farthest from
the current location is on the first student’s left. This typically involves not only getting to know each
other but some interesting conversations about geography!
Find the individual – Everyone takes a piece of paper and writes down four or five adjectives to
describe themselves. Papers are collected and redistributed at random. People must try and find the
author of the paper they have been given by looking and asking questions. They then return the paper to
its author. Keep going until everyone has their own paper back.
4.2 Going deeper
Depending on the size of your group and the time available, you may want to allow for some deeper
conversations, for example the instructions for the activity could include:
Students move around the room pairing up with people (one at a time) they do not know. On a sheet of
paper in the middle write the name of the person they are interviewing. In each of the four corners write
answers to the following:
a. What job they would love to do most.
b. The person in the world they would most like to meet and why.
c. The place in the world they would most like to live.
d. Something unusual or exciting about their lives they are willing to share with the group.
The interviewer asks questions of the other person to understand why.
The interviewer then introduces their partner to the group and reports what they have said.
Form groups of four or five. Each person tells the group three things about themselves, two true and one
false. Other members of the group have to guess which is false. Each group reports back to the whole
group the true things they learned about each other and how good they were at spotting the falsehoods.
4.3 Introducing group work
If your teaching will involve the students in group work it is a good idea to introduce this early on in the unit, in
an easy task with no consequences related to grading. There are many exercises that can be used and we outline a Asian Social Science Vol. 7, No. 4; April 2011
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very simple one below. If you are taking a more advanced class you might want to use something related to the
discipline that would remind students of the knowledge they should be bringing to the course.
Form groups of whatever size you plan to use in your course. As a group they must pick five items they
would want to have if marooned on a desert island. They write their items on a large piece of paper and they
must defend their list to the whole group.
5. Success factors
As with any program to engage students, careful consideration needs to be given to the design of the activities and
the manner in which students are encouraged to engage in the activities. Using observations and feedback from the
staff and students involved in the trial, the following factors have been identified as being essential to the success
of using icebreakers in the classroom:
Good facilitators
Good activities – need to be conscious of expected audience and learning outcomes desired
Time – need to allocate time to the activities; at least 40 minutes, but time well spent
Space – can be done in almost any space where students have room to move around
Link to learning –activities should be linked to the learning objectives of the class
o Example: using activities to introduce a marketing metrics class where you can introduce the
types of variables that you are using; this could also be used in a consumer behaviour class.
o Example: using the distance from birthplace to allocate students to groups. This meets a
learning objective of intercultural development that may be part of an international business
Follow up – in the next class the lecturer can refer back to the icebreakers.
5.1 Student reactions
Students commented that the icebreakers were important for setting the atmosphere in the class and conveying the
expectations of the learning environment:
The first hour I think we did some introductory icebreaker type things and then learning, which
set the environment and the atmosphere in the room and how, what we were learning about, so
you were all meeting all these people and even though you’re only making 30 seconds of
contact and maybe you’re learning two things about someone, it already begins to break down
those barriers and those, you know, maybe insecure barriers of like trying to talk to people you
don’t know and trying to do work with people you don’t know, and that’s not even, like that
doesn’t even really occur in uni[versity].
Others commented that being able to relate to others and combine skills relevant to life in the real world is very
I think the university should be a total experience where it does grow a person not just like in a
mental academic sort of way where they’re just learning information. It should be ... that
combination of different things because once you get into the real world then it is very much a
mix of everything.
Participating students found that icebreakers helped them to recognise and acknowledge different personalities
and the impact the combination of personalities has on group work and satisfaction. This is supported by the
literature (Burdett & Hastie, 2009):
The other thing was a lot of the students thought that at the very beginning the icebreakers were
really effective. But I thought it was good to understand the different personalities of the
students and that the tutor can pick those different characteristics up to group students together
rather than expecting students to formulate their own groups.
The emergence of a need to understand the perspective and opinions of those from other cultures was another
valuable insight provided by the icebreaker activities: Asian Social Science Vol. 7, No. 4; April 2011
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All the icebreakers we had were so amazing. I thought coming over here would be [cool]; like
interacting with different people from different cultures would be very difficult or not very
pleasing for me. But as soon as I came over here, we had so many icebreakers. ... It was
actually pretty good. Because you got around and you kind of talked to different people who
you might not have talked to.
Overall the engagement and the sense of collaboration and even friendship which emerged from the icebreakers
surprised the facilitators, who had underestimated the impact:
We were all strangers two days ago and we wouldn't have even looked at each other twice if we
walked through the street and passed each other in the street and that sort of thing. Now it sort
of feels like it’s a real sort of mateship and friendship.
The dynamics of the whole group changed with students relaxing in one another’s presence and becoming more
focussed on the task at hand:
We had the icebreakers, we had all that, and I think a lot of cohesive … this is built on
humour and all that kind of stuff and able to feel relaxed. I mean, you need to feel relaxed to
then be able to really function properly.
For many there was a sense of awe in terms of the change in group dynamics that eventuated. Even for those
who had experienced group work at their own universities, the value of the icebreakers as a critical introduction
to the group process became most evident:
Back at uni[versity], back at home it’s sort of like you get into a group work and then you just
sort of don’t actually get to know each other and build those relationships. It’s just like
straight onto the task, and I think that’s one of the detriments to the whole lack of uni culture
now. It is very much you go do your thing, you get away, you get your mark.
6. Conclusion
This paper has examined the place of icebreakers in the transitioning process as students move to new learning
situations. The focus on developing softer skills through social integration to assist students to develop feelings
of belonging has been highlighted. The comments of students who took part in a workshop to trial icebreakers
indicate that these activities may result in turning points, which can shape or alter the way in which students
make meaningful connections with university life. The outcomes of this research support and add to the literature
in showing that expectations align with levels of student satisfaction. Their early experience of learning and
connections with the university are known to make or break persistence with their study thus impacting on
retention and attrition. Therefore the process and activities outlined in this paper should have resonance and be
of interest to all educators who are concerned with enhancing student outcomes, in particular those involved in
easing students’ transition to learning.
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... One way to do this is to make a link with prerequisite knowledge and relate the content to what a pupil will be familiar with. Particularly in the first year of studying it helps with learning if a teacher describes links between the unit and the preschool environment which a pupil gets training and develops in [3]. ...
... For pupils in later years, icebreakers can review content from previous study, for example [3]: -What were the three most important things you learned in (prerequisite subject)? Why? -Knowledge gets rusty fast -why? ...
... This research has examined the place of icebreakers in the transitioning process as puplis move to new learning situations. The focus on developing softer skills through social integration to assist students to develop feelings of belonging has been highlighted [3,4]. ...
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The paper is purposed to describe the process of ice breaking activities and the suitability of the ice breaking activities with the principles applied in teaching English. The research assesses, in part, the teachers’ point of view about using ice-breakers for schoolchildren EFL learners in elementary level. In the course of English lesson's structure investigation it was pointed out that the process of ice breaking activities are mostly appropriate with the principles: the role of the teacher as the facilitator, the instruction given which is easy to understand, the suitability of the pupils’ level with the ice breaking activities, the time limit used, the atmosphere of the class, and the pupils’ interest toward lesson. In summary, ice-breakers can be an effective way of starting a training session or team-building event. As interactive and often fun sessions run before the main proceedings, they help pupils and the teacher get to know each other and buy into the purpose of the lesson.
... Rendendo l'insegnante più accessibile, incoraggiano la partecipazione attiva degli studenti. Kavanagh et al. (2011) aggiungono che gli icebreakers consentono all'insegnante di mostrare entusiasmo non solo rispetto ai contenuti, ma anche verso gli studenti. Attraverso gli icebreakers, suggerisce Crose (2011), si impara a pronunciare i nomi correttamente e come ciascuno vorrebbe essere chiamato. ...
... Una consapevolezza e espressione culturale è una competenza definita come consapevolezza dell'importanza dell'espressione creativa di idee, esperienze ed emozioni in un'ampia varietà di mezzi di comunicazione (European Commission, 2019). Rompendo le barriere, e superando l'isolamento personale e solitudine, gli icebreakers permettono di sviluppare tolleranza e una consapevolezza culturale (Kavanagh et al., 2011). In classi internazionali, suggerisce Crose (2011), queste attività possono apportare benefici a studenti internazionali perché li aiutano nella creazione di relazioni interpersonali che vanno altre l'ambiente classe, mentre agli studenti autoctoni offrono la possibilità di sviluppare la propria consapevolezza culturale. ...
... La motivazione e la fiducia sono elementi essenziali perché una persona possa acquisire tale competenza. In primo luogo, gli icebreakers predispongono all'apprendimento di questa competenza perché creano le necessarie condizioni di fiducia e motivazione a partecipare alle attività del gruppo (Kavanagh et al., 2011). Anche secondo Dixon et al. (2006) le relazioni sviluppate durante queste attività supportano un apprendimento collaborativo, e quindi ambienti d'apprendimento pensati secondo un paradigma costruttivista. ...
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Come citare questo articolo: Morselli, D. (2020). Gli icebreakers per la costruzione delle relazioni di gruppo e per lo sviluppo delle competenze chiave in una prospettiva di apprendimento permanente. In L., Cerrocchi, M., Ladogana & A., D'Antone, Educare alla vivi-bilità nella famiglia e nella scuola. Riflessioni, esperienze e pratiche educative, 87-93. Zeroseiup. Gli icebreakers per la costruzione delle relazioni di gruppo e per lo sviluppo delle competenze chiave in una prospettiva di appren-dimento permanente Daniele Morselli, Libera Università di Bolzan, Secondo il Learning Framework 2030 dell'OCSE (Organizzazione internazionale per la Cooperazione e lo Sviluppo Economico, in inglese OECD), le nostre società fronteggiano sfide inedite causate dalla globalizzazione e da un sempre più veloce sviluppo tecnologico (OECD, 2018). Malgrado il futuro sia incerto e noi non pos-siamo predirlo, dobbiamo essere aperti e pronti. I sistemi educativi dovranno pre-parare gli studenti per occupazioni che non sono ancora state create, per tecnologie che non sono ancora state inventate, per risolvere problemi che non sono ancora stati previsti. L'obiettivo è lo sviluppo di curiosità, immaginazione, resilienza e au-toregolazione. Gli studenti impareranno così a rispettare e ad apprezzare le idee degli altri, le loro prospettive, e a valorizzarne i contributi, imparando a prendersi cura non solo del benessere dei propri amici e delle famiglie, ma anche delle comu-nità e del pianeta. Le prospettive del costruttivismo sociale e le teorie femministe e di liberazione sug-geriscono un gran numero di attività che dovrebbero aver luogo il primo giorno di lezione (Iannarelli, Bardsley, Foote, 2010). Se gli assunti di queste teorie sono cor-retti, la presenza di una comunità facilita l'apprendimento, e tale comunità deve essere sviluppata. Di fatto, l'insegnante è leader di questa comunità, e quindi spetta a lui o a lei iniziare quelle attività che creano i presupposti per l'apprendimento e per lo stare bene assieme (Parricchi, 2014). Una possibile attività sono gli icebrea-kers (letteralmente rompighiaccio) che, utilizzando emozioni positive e attività in-formali, promuovono un'atmosfera supportiva, amicizia e relazioni interpersonali. Il tema degli icebreakers non è stato molto indagato nelle scienze dell'educazione. Nella ricerca eseguita da Chlup e Collins (2010) solo tre articoli trattavano l'argo-mento nei cinque anni precedenti: una rivista, una lista di icebreakers da non utiliz-zare e un articolo di una pagina. In conseguenza a questo gap e al workshop "Ice-breakers for Team Building", parte della Convegno Educazione Terra Natura 2018, questo contributo si concentra su un'analisi della letteratura sugli icebreakers. At-traverso i database dell'Università e Google Scholar, si è effettuata una ricerca bi-bliografica di pubblicazioni internazionali utilizzando le chiavi "icebreaker" (op-pure "ice breaker", o "breaking the ice") e "education". Quest'ultima parola chiave
... These activities are not only used as introductions but they are also used to help 'reboot' and motivate student moral throughout the duration of the course, allowing for student engagement, social interaction, networking and building a sense of community (Chlup & Collins, 2014). Kavanagh, Clark-Murphy and Wood (2011) proclaim that to make connections between people quickly and effectively we need to find new ways for interactions. Icebreakers are an effective way to create these connections and can contribute to a positive learning environment as well as introduce important content. ...
... Well-designed icebreakers should be ungraded and used purely as a team-building exercise (Kavanagh et al., 2011). They should be brief, relatively low-risk input, and partaking by all students to create a level of comfort (Boatman, 1991). ...
... One way to do this is to make a link with prerequisite knowledge and relate the content to what a student will be familiar with. Links should be made between the unit and the career that a student may be working towards (Kavanagh et al., 2011). ...
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The reality is that online learning can be a daunting and lonely experience. This is why icebreakers can be a rewarding practice for both students and educators. The use of icebreakers allows students studying online to introduce themselves and become familiar with other members of the group and/or community. Not only are these icebreakers used as a starter within the first weeks of study, but they are also used to help motivate students throughout the course. Highlighted in this paper are particular online (virtual) tools that can be used as icebreakers within an online learning environment and help shift the view of isolation associated with learning online and create a more engaged community of practice with effective learning.
... Moreover, implementing ice-breaking activities in English classrooms injects fun into learning; thus, they can assist teachers in creating a comfortable and students-friendly learning atmosphere in classrooms (Hansen & Liu, 2005;Flanigan, 2011). Kavanagh et al. (2011) also think that ice-breaking activities can help teachers convey their enthusiasm to the students, which is very important since teachers' eagerness may accelerate students' classroom learning. ...
... The ELT experts reported numerous ice-breaking activities that could be picked up and practiced according to the students' particular classroom context and needs. For example, Kavanagh et al. (2011) mention "getting to know the group" where groups are formed among students based on some common issues among them and letting them explore each other interests; "going deeper" where students in pair take each other interview and share their findings with the whole class; "group work" where different groups of students debate and defend on some given topics. Kilppel (1985) suggests "back-to-back" activity where one student moves in a circle by listening to music while another student keeps describing the moving student's appearance from the back; and "proverb matching". ...
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This qualitative study attempts to find out teachers' views on the role of ice-breaking activities in the English language classrooms. Ice-breaking activities can make a hard lesson easy for students by setting the tone of the lesson and adding fun elements. As a result, they may facilitate smooth teaching and learning in English language classrooms. English language teachers worldwide use countless ice-breaking activities tailored to their learners' contexts, levels, and needs. Ice-breaking activities in English language teaching and learning at the university level have been a disputable issue since university students are considered self-motivated compared with school and college-going students. Individual interviews with ten teachers have been conducted to collect data. The study's findings may trigger the ELT practitioners to rethink the importance and effectiveness of ice-breaking activities in the English language pedagogy.
... A negative or uninspiring atmosphere in a social gathering can arise from very small and hard-to-pinpoint issues but, at the same time, have drastic implications on the group performance and enjoyment. Human-facilitated icebreakers have generally been found to help increase the outcomes and the process in group work [10,17], implying that investing time in icebreaking activities typically pays off. ...
... The types of icebreaking activities vary based on the relationships between participants and the purpose of the activities (e.g., getting to know others, re-energizing participants, topic introduction, or pure fun) [10,27]. Icebreaking activity usually provides a framework or boundaries to guide the activity in order to facilitate getting to know each other (e.g., by setting a time limit, providing starting questions, or setting a stage for interaction through playing a game) [5,7,18]. ...
Conference Paper
In collaboration between strangers, group formation and familiarization often take a lot of time. To facilitate this, icebreaking activities are commonly utilized, aiming at a positive and relaxing social atmosphere. To explore how interactive technology could serve as a tool in such social activity, we developed Who's Next, a multiplayer quiz-based mobile game intended to break the ice in a group of strangers. The design utilizes the information asymmetry between people, aiming to encourage joint activity between them. We conducted six evaluation sessions where four to six participants in each played the game together and were interviewed. Who's Next was found to be a promising support for icebreaking. It was considered to offer a comfortable way of sharing information about oneself and getting to know newly-met strangers. We conclude that interactive technology could successfully support the facilitator role in encouraging interaction and creating a relaxed atmosphere between strangers.
... The social aspect of learning like cooperation and relations with both teachers and fellow students are also of importance. It has been well documented that the first year student experience is important for student´s success and in particular students that develop social network are more likely to succeed in their studies (Wilson, 2009;Kavanagh, Clark-Murphy and Wood, 2011). ...
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Student's journey through the engineering educational program is academically demanding and along the way the student is required to develop professional interpersonal skills. To promote student's positive journey, the engineering program at Reykjavik University (RU) implemented an intense two-day event called Disaster Days, occurring normally in the fourth or fifth week into the first semester. In this event students are challenged with a simulated disastrous situation where they have to face a sudden complex event that must be tackled in a single day. In this study we used semi-structured interviews to ascertain to what extent the event affected the student´s journey through the engineering program. Emerging clearly from these interviews with 15 students, is that the students like this brief shift from the traditional individualistic learning environment, they value being confronted with group work with new people, and that the event opens doors for lasting social network. In particular this experiential learning event has proved fruitful for developing the student's appreciation for group work. These interviews show that we can confidently conclude that this immersive short event provides a good start for the student's journey throughout the engineering program at RU and is arguably an important part of the curriculum to enhance interpersonal skills.
... Effective delivery of the icebreaking session requires the American conversational partner to engage both American students and the Chinese international students in simple activities. For example, find someone who has a brother, this is to encourage students to interact (Kavanagh et al., 2011). ...
The purpose of this study was to describe and explain American undergraduate students’ social experiences interacting with non-native English-speaking Chinese international students during conversational practices at an American university. This study used an explanatory (holistic) multiple case study design (Yin, 2003) using in-depth, semi-structured interviews grounded in the social exchange theory. The participants were seven American students (three men and four women) who served as conversation partners of Chinese international exchange students during each fall semester. Three major interrelated and complex themes emerged from the data. They were: (a) developing social reward relationships, (b) proving the social norm information during the conversational partnerships, and (c) employing/utilizing strategies for developing trust relationships. The results of this study can be utilized to encourage faculty, global education office staff, and all students to respect, value, and embrace the languages, and cultures of Chinese international students. This contribution can prompt a greater appreciation for diversity which leads to meaningful academic, athletic and social experiences for all students at American college and university.
... The supporting research to this finding is a research by [9] which entitled "The First Class: Using Icebreakers to Facilitate Transition in a Tertiary Environment" indicating that ice breakers are capable of spurring initial student experience and affecting students' perceptions of developing skills. Ice breakers are used for the transition of learning situations. ...
... Their knowledge and training is inadequate for criteria based on Accrediting Engineering Programs as meeting current industrial needs. The engineering approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and education system should be broad-based engineering Technology (ABET) [12]. The study done by [13] showed programs where capable of adapting to the changing of that there is an urgent need for the engineering program technologies and environment [4]. ...
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This paper highlights significant findings of end industrial survey conducted by Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Terengganu Dungun branch to assess a new diploma program which focuses on industrial engineering. The aim of the survey is to reveal how adequately the new program meets the skill training needs of the next generation of electrical engineers, so as to fulfil the industry requirements. The findings showed that the industries were very receptive to components of the new program such as the industry related engineering topics, hands on experience and industrial training. The industry perceived that the new program creates viable engineering graduates who have the potential to fulfill the needs of the increasingly advanced technology labour market. In conclusion, by the university-industry collaboration, it is not just about the adaptations of the technology, but also involves significant technical knowledge and skills development activities that will escalate the innovations.
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Transition to university involves adapting to a new academic and social environment. Recent research on this process indicates that a significant number of students experience at least some difficulties during this transition, but that this may be alleviated by various institutional measures designed to assist students with the transition, e.g. the fostering of peer study groups. From 1996, the Faculty of Science of the University of Sydney has offered a "Transition Workshop" to all incoming first year science students. Follow-up surveys from the 1997 cohort indicated that students who attended the workshop exhibited significantly better adjustment on a range of measures. Compared to equivalent peers not attending the workshop, attendees also recorded higher levels of academic performance (on average) during their first year of study. A qualitative evaluation found that the workshop facilitated the establishment of strong peer relationships, and that these enhanced study, self-motivation and general enjoyment of university life. These findings suggest that such workshops assist in the development of peer networks and are helpful in easing the transition of undergraduate students.
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‘Not belonging’ is becoming a prevalent theme within accounts of the first‐year student experience at university. In this study the notion of not belonging is extended by assuming a more active role for the idea of liminality in a student’s transition into the university environments of academic and student life. In doing so, the article suggests that the transition between one place (home) and another (university) can result in an ‘in‐between‐ness’ – a betwixt space. Through an interpretative methodology, the study explores how students begin to move from this betwixt space into feeling like fully‐fledged members of university life. It is concluded that there is a wide range of turning points associated with the students’ betwixt transition, which shapes, alters or indeed accentuates the ways in which they make meaningful connections with university life. Moreover, transitional turning point experiences reveal a cast of characters and symbolic objects; capture contrasting motivations and evolving relationships; display multiple trajectories of interpersonal tensions and conflicts; highlight discontinuities as well as continuities; and together, simultaneously liberate and constrain the students’ transition into university life.
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This article draws on findings from a longitudinal study of Chinese international students beginning study in a New Zealand university, and focuses on the very different experience of two students in relation to a single course and its assessment requirements, as they sought ways to negotiate identities as university students in their new setting. While neither student passed the course, one of them was able to learn from his experience of challenge and failure, in particular by developing his reading skills over the period, leading him to a deeper understanding of the course and a growing sense of competency as a university student. The other prided himself on his well‐developed speaking skills and favoured oral interaction as his means of clarifying difficulties, but this served him less well in the ‘DIY’ (do‐it‐yourself) learning expected in the university. The brief encounters available to him for verbal enquiries provided no obvious explanation for the ineffectiveness of his previously successful learning practices, and no counter to unhelpful advice. The suggestion is made that large first‐year classes, with no smaller groupings providing timely interaction with teaching staff, can seriously impede the recognition and adoption of appropriate learning strategies. Two paths to an improvement of this situation are posited: better preparation for the practices demanded within the university, signalled by entry requirements for more than just English proficiency, or an acceptance of greater responsibility to provide teacher guidance within first‐year courses.
Challenges to become what you want to be permeate higher education recruitment literature, inviting students to realize their dreams. Students do not interpret this invitation only in vocational terms. Other aspects of meaning for being and becoming are important for them: self-realization, and becoming who as well as what they want to be. A student voice for being and becoming is less valued and validated in contemporary higher education, and more vulnerable, than voices for knowing and doing. Yet if voices for being and becoming are unsupported, voices for knowing and doing also become vulnerable. Integrity of voice is undermined.
Studies of Australian first year students (McInnis & James, 1995; McInnis, James, & Hartley, 2000a) show that initial experiences on campus are important, and influence students' persistence in higher education. In this paper we present the way in which one Australian university has sought to address the issues of first year student progression and withdrawal, grounded in theory and research. We begin by reviewing the literature on withdrawal, and conclude that each university must understand the experiences of its own students, if it is to address attrition. Next, analysis of Tinto's six principles (Tinto, 1987, 1993), which underpin successful attempts to enhance first year student success and progression at university, and Peel's (1999) "basic set of expectations" in relation to attempts to address transition issues by universities, leads us to the conclusion that a coordinated, informed, university-wide response to transition issues will improve the learning experiences of all first year students. We then apply Fullan's theory (1991) of successful change processes to the context of La Trobe University. Drawing on this theoretical background, we discuss the processes of the First Year Experience Project, the vehicle for change that is in place at La Trobe University. We highlight the dynamic nature of the change process, and emphasise the way in which evaluation is embedded in that process. Finally, we attempt to synthesise the theory and the practice, showing where the First Year Experience Project at La Trobe University fits with theory, evaluating the success of the change model in relation to its objectives, and raising issues for the future.
The terms creativity and engagement are used broadly throughout the literature and are in common usage in our education and design language. Students, however, understand these terms in unexpected ways and this can sometimes cause a disjunction between the teacher's intention for the learning activity and the ways in which the student may go about it. In this article we tease out the relationships between engagement and creativity for student learning in design. Our data suggest that engagement relies on certain conditions and attributes that have to be met before a student makes a personally meaningful commitment to study. Engagement here means some form of interlocking between the student and the task, or some form of attentiveness facilitated by the teacher or the environment. By creativity we mean the meshing between person, process and product which is then appreciated by the broader design community. We suggest that understanding creativity as a complex attribute contributes to the nature and quality of student engagement with their learning and the profession.