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7 rules for group discussion

Andrei Kolesnikov, IAF Certified™ Professional Facilitator and CEO of PowerLexis, attended an educational intensive training
«Island 10-21» on the Russky Island. There he decided to take a break from his professional activities — facilitation (some call it moderation) and try a role of an ordinary participant in group discussions in order to see and feel the discussion process from the other side better. That was interesting, unusual, informative..

 

По итогам мероприятия Андрей приводит 7 основных наблюдений в формате Н-П-Р: Наблюдение (Н) — Проблема (П) — Рекомендация (Р).

 

  1. 1.

    O: Discussion moderator often “captures” the discussion space using his power.

    I: Discussion turns into a lecture' participants get bored, the group is irritated, because they can't express their opinion.

    R: The facilitator should take an independent position quite often when managing the discussion and giving the floor to all participants.

    Sometimes it is useful for the facilitator to separate two roles: the one of an expert and the one of a facilitator/moderator. For example, when the presenter takes an unusual object in his hand, drawing attention to it - he is an expert. In all other cases - he is
    a facilitator/moderator.

  2. 2.

    O:80% of time is taken by 20% of participants:

    Outward extraverts discuss the topic among themselves.

    I:Introverts get bored, remain dumb and fail to tune in, the tension grows, some the introverts leave taking away their precious thoughts

    R: It is good for the facilitator to give everyone an opportunity to speak by engaging introverts into the process and stopping extroverts. One of the ways to do this is to introduce 2 rules:  “express an opinion for no more than one minute per turn” and “listen more and 
  3. 3.
    O:2-5 participants are usually on air at the same time.

    I:Participants do not hear one another and prevent others from perceiving the information (imagine what it feels like when you are listening to 2-3 radio broadcasts simultaneously)  

    R:It would be useful to establish a strictly follow a basic discussion rule  - «one radio station rule: only one person is speaking at
    a time». 
  4. 4.

    O:95%   of discussions are held in the following way: the moderator puts a question and then the participants start expressing their ideas.

    I: The number of original ideas falls down. All of us have associative thinking: as soon as we hear an idea, it triggers a new one and so on. It means that the discussion mostly develops the first mentioned idea and then very rarely we happen to think out of the box

    R:At first in absolute silence each participant should put their ideas on paper (3-10 minutes). And only then everyone pronounces them.
  5. 5.

    O: The moderator puts vague and unclear tasks for small groups: «Now discuss the speaker's talk» or «Share your thoughts on
    the topic».

    I:Discussion are very chaotic. It becomes time-consuming. It is hard to combine the ideas of different groups.

    R:It would be useful to structure the discussion process. For example, you could ask a group to note the answers to three questions while the speaker is talking. They are as follows: «What was important?», «What is your own attitude to the things you heard?», «What questions did come up?» Or you could ask a group to fill in some template, for example, «Issue — Solution — Risks» or «Idea — Advantages — Disadvantages».


  6. 6.

    O:Quite often in order to fix the ideas expressed by the participants , the moderator themselves note them down on a flipchart.

    I:The moderator is held responsible for the ideas in that case. ( it is not the participant who put the idea that way, it is just the moderator who understood the idea that way). Group clustering process becomes more complicated. The time is prolonged (especially for large groups).

    R:Use stickers where participants write down their own ideas themselves. Use more of the sticky walls and sprayed paper
    for facilitation.

  7. 7.

    O:Many moderators ask participants to 'BREAK INTO' small groups

    I:Break is a negative and destructive word, which impacts the atmosphere and seperates people.

    R:It is better to use a different word – «let us COME TOGETHER IN small groups