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Group Discussion Chairing a group discussion Discussion etiquette for group discussions
Group discussions are essential for effective learning at university. Participation in group discussion has the following benefits:
  • Improves communication skills
  • Increases motivation and confidence
  • Provides an opportunity for critical thinking
  • Generates good question for discussion
  • Further improves or develops studying approach or technique
  • Provides deeper understanding of the topic as peers have different opinions and perspectives
  • Shows student’s weakness
  • Corrects student’s mistake
  • Develops leadership skills
When chairing a discussion group, you can use leadership skills to influence positively the speakers and help your group achieve its purposes. These skills include:
  • Introducing yourself and the other speakers
  • Introducing the topic and purpose of the discussion
  • Asking questions to stimulate the discussion
  • Making sure no one dominates the discussion by inviting and encouraging contributions from all students
  • Ensuring only one member of the group speaks at a time
  • Ensuring the discussion remains relevant and doesn't drift off topic
  • Summarizing or rephrasing a speaker's point and the discussion at the end

How to chair a discussion
Introductions
  • Introduce yourself and peers
  • Greet the audience “Good morning/Good afternoon, everyone.
Introduce the topic of discussion
  • Today, we’re going to discuss…
  • Today, we’re going to talk about…
  • The aim of this discussion is to find out…
  • Let’s start discussing about…
  • Let’s start the discussion on…
Initiating discussion and stating an opinion or idea
  • Can I make a point first?
  • Any suggestions?
  • In my opinion…
  • I reckon that…
  • Wouldn’t you say that…
  • I think it’s best if we start our discussion by trying to answer the question…
  • It would seem to me that…
Inviting passive members to speak
  • _________, do you think the idea will work?
  • Would you care to comment?
  • Do you think X or Y is correct?
  • Do you agree with this idea?

The following are a few ground rules for good discussion behavior.

Dos
  • Respect the contribution of other speakers. Speak with courtesy to group members.
  • Listen carefully to the ideas of other speakers.
  • Acknowledge what you find interesting.
  • Remember that a discussion is not a fight. If you disagree, do so politely.
  • Respect differing views. Those who hold them are not necessarily wrong.
  • Think about your contribution before you speak.
  • Try to stick to the discussion topic. Don't introduce irrelevant information.
  • Be aware of your body language. Avoid gestures that appear aggressive.
  • Speak clearly, even if you're feeling uncertain about your ideas or language.
Don'ts
  • Don't take offence if another speaker disagrees with you. Putting forward different points of view is an important part of any discussion.
  • Never try to intimidate or insult another speaker or ridicule his/her contribution. Don’t use comments like 'that’s stupid' or 'you're wrong'. Disagree and argue appropriately.
  • Never use an angry or aggressive tone of voice.
  • Don’t use too many hand gestures. Finger pointing may appear aggressive.
  • If you are a confident speaker, try not to dominate the discussion. Pause to allow quieter speakers a chance to contribute.
  • Don't interrupt or talk over another speaker. Let them finish their point before you start.
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Individual presentations Body language Types of learners Seating arrangements
  • Check the classroom environment and equipment available for use.
  • Have a clear structure for the presentation, with an introduction, body and conclusion.
  • Avoid reading directly from notes.
  • Maintain good eye contact with peers and teacher.
  • Demonstrate confidence with poised body language.
  • Speak in a loud voice with varying use of stress and intonation to engage the audience.
  • Practice presenting in front of peers to gain critical feedback.
  • Prepare questions which may be asked following the presentation
Body language includes the gestures, movements and expressions that a person uses to communicate. When we communicate, it is essential for us to have the correct body language to avoid possible offense to others. The types of body language include; eye contact, facial expression, gestures, posture and spatial distance. Listed below are actions that project self-confidence.

How to chair a discussion
  • Head facing upwards
  • Direct eye contact
  • Balanced posture
  • Pleasant facial expression
  • Relaxed and competent manner
  • Smiling
  • Firm speech at a steady pace
The type of learner you are can have a significant influence in your learning experiences. The table below lists the categories and its features. Go through the list and see which category learner you are and which you strive to become.

Category Features
Talkative and Enthusiastic Very confident to speak in front of others
Do not hesitate to speak up in class
Very enthusiastic in class discussions
Talk often, offering positive comments and ideas
Sometimes interrupt others because you have a good idea you want to share
Bring up comments that are not related to discussion
If the tutor doesn’t control you – talk more and more
Thoughtful Listen carefully and attentively to the proposed ideas
Make comments that are directly related to the discussion
Have your own opinions regarding discussion
Acknowledge other ideas immediately even if you are in disagreement
Stop talking if anyone interrupts you
Leader Treat others with respect and consideration
Confident in your language abilities to lead a discussion
Talkative and enthusiastic
Able to involve all participants to participate in discussion
Follower Do not have a personal opinion on the topic of discussion
Comments are always in agreement with others
If an opposing idea is presented and the discussion changes direction, agree with the new idea too
Only offer your own opinion if a tutor encourages you
Silent Listen attentively to the discussion but never contribute comments
You hesitate to contribute even when asked to
Withdrawn Do not take interest in class activities and discussions
Do not contribute personal ideas or participate in discussions
Pessimist Actively participate in the discussion
Always focus on the negative things in the discussion
You may acknowledge others ideas but tend to always find fault in others ideas

Where a student chooses to sit may influence their concentration and ability to listen and attain information. Research has shown that seating arrangements greatly impacts a student’s learning ability. Studies have shown that students sitting in the front and centre sections of the classroom are more motivated and have achieved higher academic results.

Seating Arrangements
Front
  • Better vision of teacher and teaching material/whiteboard
  • Better hearing of what is said by the instructor
  • Greater eye contact with instructor that may increase you sense of responsibility to listen and take notes
  • May feel less nervous when asking questions as there will be no one staring in front of you
  • Increases the likelihood that your instructor will know who you are
Centre
  • Good vicinity of the instructor and materials
  • Suitable for talkative and outgoing students who engage in a lot of classroom discussion
Back
  • Furthest away from instructor and material
  • Most distractions apparent (distance to instructor, laptops, peers)

So when you step into a classroom, make a conscious decision on where you want to sit that can maximise your learning ability.
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Exercise Rating Form
Exercise 1) Discussion etiquette

Listed below are actions that you should or should not do in group discussion. For each action, select whether it belong to the ‘do’ or ‘don’t’ category.

  Action Do Don’t
1. Speak pleasantly
2. Learn to disagree politely
3. Slouch on your chair
4. Point directly at peers
6. Speak clearly
7. Remain silent
8. Fold your arms
9. Respect contribution of peers
10. Intimidate peers with eye contact
11. Show lack of interest
12. Be logical in discussion
13. Dominate the discussion if others do not speak
14. Draw on personal experience
15. Lose your temper
16. Give credit to others
17. Raise your fists
18. Mention erratic statistics
19. Be assertive not dominating
20. Make time consuming contributions
21. Stay with the topic
22. Argue and shout
23. Be shy
24. Take notes if required
(Correct answers are highlighted in yellow)
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