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What is an effective group discussion?   

___An effective group discussion is one in which the group is able to accomplish its purpose or to establish a basis either for ongoing discussion or for further contact and collaboration among its members.

You understand the elements of an effective group discussion:

___All members of the group have a chance to speak, expressing their own ideas and feelings freely, and to pursue and finish out their thoughts

___All members of the group can hear others’ ideas and feelings stated openly

___Group members can safely test out ideas that are not yet fully formed

___Group members can receive and respond to respectful but honest and constructive feedback

___A variety of points of view are put forward and discussed

___The discussion is not dominated by any one person

___Arguments, while they may be spirited, are based on the content of ideas and opinions, not on personalities

___Even in disagreement, there’s an understanding that the group is working together to resolve a dispute, solve a problem, create a plan, make a decision, find a precept or set of precepts all can agree on, or come to a conclusion

You understand the possible uses for a group discussion:

___Create a new situation – form a coalition, start an initiative, etc.

___Explore cooperative or collaborative arrangements among groups or organizations

___Discuss and/or analyze an issue

___Create a strategic plan – for an initiative, an advocacy campaign, an intervention, etc.

___Discuss policy and policy change

___Air concerns and differences among individuals or groups

___Hold public hearings on proposed laws or regulations, development, etc.

___Decide on an action

___Provide mutual support

___Solve a problem

___Resolve a conflict

___Plan the work or an event

Why would you lead a group discussion?

___A group discussion gives everyone involved a voice

___A group discussion allows for a variety of ideas to be expressed and discussed

___Group discussion is generally a democratic, egalitarian process

___A group discussion leads to group ownership of whatever conclusions, plans, or action the group decides upon

___An effective group discussion encourages those who might normally be reluctant to speak their minds

___Group discussions can often open communication channels among people who might not communicate in any other way

___In some cases, a group discussion is simply the obvious, or even the only, way to proceed

You might lead a group discussion because:

___It’s part of your job

___You’ve been asked to

___A discussion is necessary, and you have the skills to lead it

___It was your idea in the first place

Some people who might find themselves leading a group discussion:

___Directors of organizations

___Public officials

___Coalition coordinators

___Professionals with group-leading skills


___Health professionals and health educators

___Respected community members

___Community activists

When might you lead a group discussion?

___At the start of something new

___When an issue can no longer be ignored

___When groups need to be brought together

___When an existing group is considering its next step or seeking to address an issue of importance to it

How do you lead a group discussion?

___Choose the space

___Provide food and drink

___Bring materials to help the discussion along

___Become familiar with the purpose and content of the discussion

___Make sure everyone gets any necessary information, readings, or other material in plenty of time to study it well beforehand

General guidelines:

___Think about leadership style

___Put people at ease

___Help the group develop ground rules

___Generate an agenda or goals for the discussion

___Lead the discussion

  • Set the topic
  • Foster the open process
  • Involve all participants
  • Ask questions or provide information to move the discussion
  • Summarize and/or clarify important points and conclusions
  • Wrap up the session

___Follow up if necessary.

Do’s for discussion leaders:

___Model the behavior and attitudes you want group members to employ

___Use encouraging body language and tone of voice, as well as words

___Give positive feedback for joining the discussion

___Be aware of people’s reactions and feelings, and try to respond appropriately

___Ask open-ended questions

___Control your own biases

___Encourage disagreement, and help the group use it creatively

___Be a recorder if necessary

___Keep your mouth shut as much as possible

Don’ts for discussion leaders:

___Don’t let one or a small group of individuals dominate the discussion

___Don’t let one point of view override others

___Don’t assume that anyone holds particular opinions or positions because of his culture, background, race, personal style, etc.

___By the same token, don’t assume that someone from a particular culture, race, or background speaks for everyone else from that situation

___Don’t be the font of all wisdom