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Newsletter Tips on Facilitating Effective Group Discussions Effective facilitation of a discussion involves the recognition and employment of different perspectives and different skills to create an inclusive environment.
In order to do so, it is important to consider the features of effective discussions, and conditions that promote small group interaction and engagement.
Discussion is a powerful mechanism for active learning; a well-facilitated discussion allows the participant to explore new ideas while recognizing and valuing the contributions of others. Roles of Discussion Leaders adapted from Handelsman et al.
Create an inclusive environment Opportunities for reflection What do the participants bring to the group? What surprises or challenges me?
What behaviors am I most familiar or comfortable with? What behaviors challenge me? Dos Allow participants to introduce themselves — you can even set up an ice breaker to have pairs of students introduce each other. Be clear up front about expectations and intentions amongst participants and the facilitator.
Treat participants with respect and consideration. Develop an awareness for barriers for learning cultural; social; experiential, etc. Provide sufficient time and space for participants to gather their thoughts and contribute to discussions. Provide opportunities for participants to pair-share.
Don'ts Use certain conventions or language that will exclude certain groups from understanding the context of the discussion, or make them feel uncomfortable. Assume participants all have the same expectations when the group first convenes.
Over-generalize behavior or have stereotypical expectations of participants tokenism. Use or allow others to use disrespectful language or tone, or disrespectful non-verbal communication.
Convey a sense of self-importance or superiority. Allow only the dominant or more verbal participants to take over the conversation. Discourage alternate views or counter-arguments.
Try to be someone else - be yourself.
Keep discussions constructive and positive Make the discussion functional by clarifying the goals of each session to the group. Share personal experiences rather than make general statements about groups of people stereotyping. Ask dominant participants to allow others to speak.
Give all participants a voice- at the start highlight the value of a diversity of perspectives as an essential part of the process. Try to keep the group on task without rushing them.
Encouraging participants Encouraging participation can be accomplished by: Asking follow-up questions, and paraphrasing the comments for everyone to ponder. Re-visiting past contributions and incorporating them into subsequent discussions. Discomfort and silence are ok, but balance with a clearly stated context and purpose.
Potential Problems in Discussions adapted from:The Midterm Elections are fast approaching. ABC News brings you in-depth coverage and breaking political news, as voters determine the Senate and House of Representatives.
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