How to Conduct Discussion Groups

Sections of This Topic Include

Guidelines to Conduct Discussion Groups
Various Perspectives on Discussion Groups

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In addition to the articles on this current page, also see the following blogs that have posts related to Discussion Groups. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section "Recent Blog Posts" in the sidebar of the blog or click on "next" near the bottom of a post in the blog. The blog also links to numerous free related resources.

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Guidelines to Conduct Discussion Groups

Note that the reader might best be served to first read the topic Group Dynamics to understand the basic nature of most groups and their typical stages of development. (It's not clear at this time if online groups have similar nature and stages.)

Typical Purpose of a Discussion Group

The purpose of the discussion technique is to ensure interaction among group members to identify, clarify, analyze and/or select an item, for example, about:

  • Issues
  • Recommendations
  • Objectives
  • Responsibilities
  • Timelines

Process for a Discussion Group

The process of the discussion technique typically includes the following steps.

  1. Specify the discussion topic and the goal to the planning group (if possible, do this step as pre-work before the next meeting). The goal is usually to identify, clarify, analyze and/or select an item.
  2. It is often best if the topic is described in the form of a “yes/no” question or a choice from among alternatives, for example, “Should we approve ___?” or “Should we hire ____?”.
  3. Specify when the discussion is to start and stop.
  4. Allow for open, unassigned exchange of information, for example, questions, suggestions or general comments until it is time to stop the discussion. Give the group a 2-minute warning when time is almost up.
  5. Facilitate to focus the discussion around the topic.
  6. Attempt to capture key points on a flipchart.

Optional:

  • Attempt to summarize the discussion by identifying conclusions or decisions from the discussion.
  • The group can make selections from the results using voting (ranking or rating) and/or consensus techniques.

Important Skills for Facilitation of Discussion Groups

The quality of the discussion group can be enhanced significantly if guided by a skilled facilitator.
All About Facilitation

Also, sound skills in meeting management ensure a clear and consistent purpose and framework in which to work toward that purpose.
Guidelines to Conducting Effective Meetings

Various Perspectives on Discussion Groups

Tips for Facilitating a Group Discussion
Tips for Facilitating Small-Group Discussion


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