Group Discussion is a Collective Effort for Collective Knowledge. GD is a popular part of the hiring process in the world and is a popularly known pain-area for job aspirants. It also holds a crucial role in the day-to-day working of the companies and even life. Most of the times, a GD fails because of the people who participate.
We can learn about the types of participants and then develop skills to facilitate the GD towards a meaningful conclusion.
Where and Why do people fail? We can discuss the students and job aspirant related reasons separately but why Discussion fails is the primary topic here. While doing an Online Course with OERu, I have come across some useful insights that I am tempted to share with you all. Before you plunge into the contents, do commit yourself to Life Long Learning through OERs. Find out yourself what OER means and what change it has brought to Education in the modern world!
There are two scenarios that can ruin the outcomes of a discussion. A Facilitator has to face these while the moderation and facilitation are done. Understanding the challenge, process and remedies can help us all.
Category 01: Under-participation
Some participants are very quiet and aren’t participating in the discussion.
- While some people speak up, others sit in silence.
- When asked if they have anything to say, they decline.
- Sometimes an entire group will sit back and say nothing.
What’s really going on
- Some people are unaccustomed to attending meetings, let alone being asked to participate in discussions.
- Some people feel insecure about the quality of their ideas.
- Others may fear that their ideas aren’t going to be heard or, worse, fear that they’ll actually get rebuked for speaking out.
- Participants may be afraid of saying something inappropriate in front of their peers or managers.
- The presence of a senior person may intimidate participants and cause them to shut down.
- Over-participants may be shutting down the quieter people.
- Failing to find out if the presence of certain people might have a negative effect on participation.
- Assuming that quiet people have nothing to add.
- Sticking with a large group format for most discussions.
- Not setting ground rules that create safety and comfort at the meeting.
- Leading a discussion in which only the high participants have a voice.
- Forgetting to invite quiet people into the conversation.
- Put people at ease at the start of the session by assuring them that no one will be asked to do anything that puts them on the spot.
- Design your meeting around techniques that create safety and get everyone involved (e.g. get people to talk in pairs before talking in a bigger group; use small group discussions; invite people to write their ideas on Post-it notes or flipcharts distributed around the room).
- Encourage the group to create ground rules that encourage open participation by asking: ‘How can we make sure that everyone participates and no one dominates?’ or ‘What conditions or assurances would encourage people to speak freely?’
- Maintain eye contact with the under-participants so they know they’re not forgotten and are always welcome to add their views.
- Call on quiet people by name, especially if their body language indicates that they may have something to say.
- Find non-threatening roles for quiet people, such as timekeeper, to make them feel valued.
- Encourage under-participants by thanking them for contributing.
Category 02: Over-talkers
An individual supplies excessive detail or is over talkative and dominating the session.
- Individuals who can’t limit how much they talk.
- People who provide a level of detail that isn’t needed or appropriate to the situation.
- Group members who are oblivious to what others want to hear.
What’s really going on
- Some people have an inflated sense of their own importance.
- Some people simply love to hear themselves talk.
- Dysfunctional talkers are often oblivious to what others need to hear.
- Over-talking may be a ploy to get attention or to gain control.
- Some people are simply insensitive to the needs or behaviours of others.
- Not checking with the rest of the group to determine what they need to hear.
- Failing to establish guidelines for presentations.
- Standing by and allowing over-talkers to continue past pre-set time limits.
- Using overly harsh or judgemental language when intervening.
- Coming across as unsure when asking over-talkers to curtail their comments.
- Help the group set clear time limits for each presentation.
- Appoint one of the group members to act as timekeeper and periodically call out milestones.
- Help the group establish guidelines for each presentation:
‘Before the presentations begin, let’s talk about the level of detail people need and some of the specific questions you want to have answered.’
- Ask the group to establish a targeted norm/ground rule at the start of any meeting where you suspect over-talking might occur:
‘We’ve got a really tight agenda today. What commitments do we each need to make to honour our time-frames?’
- Help over-talkers correct themselves by offering them specific feedback:
‘You’ve been giving us a lot of implementation details rather than offering an overview of project goals. Please refocus your presentation to be in line with the guidelines we set earlier.’
- If the over-talker shows no sign of self-control, stop him or her and check with the rest of the group:
‘I’m going to stop you and check with the rest of the group to make sure this is the right time to hear more of your report.’
- Firmly point out that the group members are violating their time limits, and clearly state what you want them to do:
‘You’re now five minutes over your allotted time. I'm concerned others won’t get a chance to present. Please wrap up.’
- If none of the above interventions has an impact, take over-talkers aside and give them feedback in a way that encourages them to take responsibility for their actions in future meetings:
‘At today’s meeting, you ran over by 20 minutes, even though I asked you to end your presentation twice. This threw the meeting seriously off schedule. I need a commitment from you to ensure that this doesn’t happen in the future.’
Do visit the OERu website as there are plenty of resources that can actually provide you with quality learning.
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