Whether it’s the first day of class or you’re several weeks into the term, group discussions provide your students with the opportunity to get to know one another and see new perspectives as they explore course topics.

As the instructor (and facilitator of those conversations), you want to keep these discussions on topic… and keep them from losing focus, losing steam, or turning sour.

The good news: by putting some basic ground rules in place, you’ll set the stage for effective and meaningful conversations that leave you and your students enlightened, inspired, and enthusiastic about the learning experience.

In the Instructor’s Resource Manual for Essential Study Skills, Eighth Edition, Linda Wong offers guidelines for working through the “Group Processing” activities that appear throughout her text. You can use these guidelines for just about any type of discussion that takes place in your class.

By following these guidelines, students’ discussions will flow more smoothly and respectfully, and all students will be more likely to feel engaged and involved in the process.

Start by asking students to form groups of three or four. Before beginning the activity, discuss the process of brainstorming. Emphasize key group processing skills:

1. Accept all ideas; do not judge some as good and others as not good.
2. Encourage all group members to participate. Give equal time for each person to speak.
3. Stay on task. Do not allow conversations that are unrelated to the task at hand.
4. Be respectful of others’ feelings and ideas. Be thoughtful, courteous, and enthusiastic.
5. Inform groups that they may be asked to share their work with the rest of the class, so they will want to produce quality work.

Many of the Group Processing activities involve creating charts to show responses. If all groups do not have access to whiteboards or chalkboards, consider using the following:
o Flip charts and felt pens for students to use to record answers
o Large Post-It charts that attach easily to walls, doors, windows, and chalkboards; use water-soluble felt pens for recording answers (Wong, xvi)

Reference: Wong, Linda. 2015. Instructor’s Resource Manual for Essential Study Skills, 8th ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

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