Speed Dating

What is it?

Speed dating is a great activity to use as an icebreaker, or to give learners an opportunity to hear multiple perspectives on a topic or question.  Divide the class into two concentric circles, such that both circles comprise the same number of learners.  Learners should position themselves in the circles to form pairs facing each other, with one member of the pair from each circle.  The educator poses a question or topic, and the pairs have approximately two minutes to discuss their responses.  Once the time has elapsed, learners form new pairs and continue discussing the same topic or question.  To form new pairings, learners in the outer circle rotate one spot to the right so that they are facing a new partner, while learners in the inner circle remain in the same spot.  This process continues until the outer circle eventually returns to their starting pairing.


Why do it?
  • Speed dating encourages learners to consider alternative and competing perspectives on topics. In so doing, it improves analytical skills.
  • The fast nature of this activity requires learners to hone their active listening and direct questioning skills.
  • In asking learners to move around, Speed Dating enhances motivation and interest in the subject.


How to set it up
  • Before the session
    1. Decide what question or topic to pose to your learners.
    2. Set up the room so that there is enough room to move.
  • During the session
    1. Divide learners into two equal groups. Get them to form pairs in two concentric circles.  See variations below for alternative formations.
    2. Present your question or topic. Allow learners time to consider the issue before commencing the activity.
    3. Give learners a fixed amount of time to discuss their responses with their partner.
    4. When the time elapses, ask the outer-circle to move one spot to the right and face a new partner. The inner-circle should remain in their spots.
    5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the outer-circle is facing their original partner.
  • Speed Dating can take time and space. In larger groups, parallel speed dating groups may be more appropriate to get through the activity faster.  Alternatively, depending on the question, it may not be necessary to rotate through all learners.
  • Shape Formations
    • Speed dating can also be done in two lines, instead of circles. Line 1 stays in place, while Line 2 moves forward one spot each time. The learner at the head of Line 2 moves to the end of the same line to find their new partner.
  • Discussion Topic
    • The topic can be changed as frequently or infrequently as you like. If each pairing is responding to a different question, consider distributing questions to the inner circle before starting the activity.
    • Alternatively, learners can be required to build on the same topic as they progress through their partners. This way, they are not repeating the same conversation with each new pairing.  Instead, learners have to consider everything that their previous partners shared while responding to their new partner.
  • Timings

Active Learning at King’s – Concentric circles

Jaques, D. and Salmon, G., 2007. Learning in groups: A handbook for face-to-face and online environments. Routledge.

The Teacher Toolkit – Inside/Outside Circles