Love them or Hate them – Ice Breakers: the Marmite of Higher Education

Jar of Marmite

I facilitate the learning of students on the PG Cert teaching in HE programme for new/inexperienced staff and their assignment is to reflect on their identity, their practice and to identify future professional development needs and avenues to address them. 

Recently, the issue of engaging with students and supporting their connections through appropriate ice breaker activities seemed to be a common need among several new lecturers.    

I raised this as a need we could help to facilitate amongst SALT – and I received quite a ‘marmite’ response.  People tend to be in one of two camps – love them or hate them and this is evident from Twitter discussions going back many years (using the terms “ice breakers college education” reinforces this!). For example:  

“When will higher education institutes realize that grown adults don’t wanna do ice breakers” – Jan 14th 2021.  

However, for lecturers, such as suggested by Virna Rossi, the ice breaker topic can be structured around the actual subject material and was particularly helpful when teaching online synchronously.  They can help start discussions both at social and knowledge level and as a form of creative “play” can help reinforce learning:  The Creativity Post | Play Matters: Six Play-Full Practices For… 

And so, we’ve started a PADLET of some suggested effective ice breakers in different contexts and with a range of ideas from elsewhere – we hope they are helpful.  Do add others that have been helpful for you – as well as ones you’ve found less successful and why! 

Follow the link to the PADLET to explore and/or add your own suggestions: 

SALT can help! 

If you need help with any of the above, please get in touch with us in SALT: or via our website: Swansea Academy of Learning and Teaching (SALT) – Swansea University 


Louise Rees 

Senior Academic Developer (HEA)

Leave a Reply