Easy Guide to Leading A Group Discussion
A group discussion tends to be somewhat less formal (serious) than a meeting. However, this does not mean that it is simply a casual chat among students when the teacher calls for one.
When the teacher calls for a group discussion, she would have set the topic and the ground rules and expectations for both group leaders and members. Leading a group discussion can be a daunting thought for some. First-time leaders quickly find out that they have to be managing a number of things well in order to produce a fruitful group discussion.
Today's article will recommend 4 areas that a new group leader can take note when leading a group discussion in class.
#1 – Ask open-ended questions
To move the discussion constructively forward, it is crucial the leader knows how to use open-ended questions. Try to avoid questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no.
There is a huge difference between "Do you think the factory's practice of dumping chemicals into that river is right?" and "What do you think of the factory's practice of dumping chemicals into that river?". Obviously, the second elicits a deeper level of reasoning and encourages more perspectives and differing opinions on the discussion topic.
In this way, the members will gradually find that they have to explain their points to their fellow members and likely, better prepare themselves mentally.
#2 – Involve all group members
It is a common sight nowadays to see the same few students eagerly raise their hands to answer questions from their teachers in class. In a similar manner, there will always be several members who dominate a group discussion. They may have their own reasons for this behaviour.
In any case, the group leader must be quick to pick up this behaviour, thank that member for his contribution, paraphrase what is said and use this as an opportunity to bring in the more passive or quiet members into the discussion.
The leader can invite a quiet member to comment on what was being said. This is essential as it has the effect of creating a safe environment for all members as well as to build a team culture or leadership style where the ideas from all members are treated with equal importance.
#3 – Stay out of the spotlight
It is never easy to manage both the task at hand and the different members on the team. Hence, new group leaders tend to commit the mistake of leading from A to Z. They believe they have to be talking constantly from explaining, suggesting to summarizing. Otherwise, they will be seen as not doing their job well.
In reality, many successful leaders frequently take a step back and allow their members to have more time and space to express individual views and engage in constructive debate over suggestions and ideas.
Though taking a step back, effective group leaders do not stop encouraging members and move the discussion forward with mini summaries and checking if other members have relevant points to add.
#4 – Take stock
Effective time and progress management is one of the most crucial areas that a new group has to pay attention to. In fact, the group leader often has to halt an interesting dialogue that might have digressed from the main discussion thread or to thank an overly eager member (who can't stop expanding on the same idea) and tactfully but firmly remind the team of the need to move on to other areas that have not been looked at.
An actual checklist or progress chart can be used by the group leader to pace the discussion. This serves to constantly remind the members what still needs to be done or to revisit certain points at the end of the group discussion.
In conclusion, a student group leader has to constantly keep the group discussion moving forward in terms of asking an open-ended question, encouraging members to participate actively and eliminating non-relevant dialogue in a tactful manner.
About the Author
Mr. Nicholas Ee has more than a decade of experience in teaching English from Primary Two to Primary Six in local primary schools. He is presently, in his free time, having immense enjoyment experimenting with the Nimzo-Indian Defence in chess and trying out the Apacs Lethal 9 in badminton doubles.