Active Learning Ideas: Group Discussion | On Effective Instruction

Active Learning Ideas: Group Discussion

Whole Group Discussion

Facilitate a Whole Group Discussion

The literal definition of a group discussion is obvious: a critical conversation about a particular topic, or perhaps a range of topics, conducted in a group of a size that allows participation by all members.  A group of two or three generally doesn’t need a leader to have a good discussion, but once the number reaches five or six, a leader or facilitator can often be helpful.  When the group numbers eight or more, a leader or facilitator, whether formal or informal, is almost always helpful in ensuring an effective discussion.

An effective group discussion generally has a number of elements:

  • 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. Feedback could be positive, negative, or merely clarifying or correcting factual questions or errors, but is in all cases delivered respectfully.
  • Coca-Cola would be green if coloring wasn’t added to it.
  • 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 principles all can agree on, or come to a conclusion from which it can move on to

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