Leading Discusion Groups




Begin with a common experience. (Present a demonstration, short reading, a film segment, etc. to the group. Follow with questions.)

Begin with a question. (Don’t rush the answering process-some silence is necessary for group members to recall information needed to answer the question. It often helps to have group members write an answer to the question before discussion.)

Begin with a controversial statement. (Use the “devil’s advocate” role to introduce a position group members will want to challenge. Tell your group you are playing a role; otherwise, the technique borders on the unethical.)

Use questions that probe for group member feelings, reactions or perceptions. (Questions which appear to be seeking a “correct” answer foreclose discussion.)

Avoid questions that can be answered “yes” or “no.”

Recognize the person who hasn’t talked in preference to one who has.

Avoid leader-member dialogues. (Encourage others in the group to react to statements made by a group member.)

Follow-up group member statements. (Follow-up questions improve the clarity and depth of an answer. Be careful not to embarrass the group member in the process by pushing for too much detail.)

Avoid talking each time a group member does. (Try to refer questions or comments addressed to you to the whole group unless you are the only one who can answer.)

Employ group discussion techniques to give members the chance to communicate about the topic in a different way. (Become familiar with the use of brainstorming, nominal group process, round robin discussion, etc.)

Limit the number of topics to be covered. (Research demonstrates that group member satisfaction and learning is higher in groups where less than five different topics per hour are covered.)

Direct praise to the whole group rather than to individual members. (Group-oriented reward statements)