Northern Virginia Ethical Society

"Act so as to bring out the best in others, and thereby in yourself"
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Leading Course Discussions
Leading Course Discussions
The AGL team has been looking at what works for adult learning events. 
Facilitator led discussions generally maximize enjoyment by helping to maintain focus and participation.  Therefore, we are recommending the following guidelines at our discussion courses for facilitators and participants.    
Facilitator Guidelines
Generally, a facilitator's role is to explain the goal(s) of the course, encourage participation, summarize when necessary, ask relevant questions, keep the discussion on track, and hold off expressing an opinion until others have had a chance to comment.  As a facilitator, consider using the following guidelines.
1.  Identify yourself as the facilitator.
2.  Have everyone briefly introduce themselves.
3.  Review your role as a facilitator and go over the participant guidelines (see below).
4.  Request agreement with you serving as facilitator and in the participant guidelines.
5.  If one person seems to be dominating the discussion, politely remind the person about the aspiration for all to participate.
Ask the dominant person to hold their thoughts for a few moments to permit others to contribute. 
Suggest the dominant person put their thoughts on a note pad as a reminder so they do not have to interrupt others before forgetting their idea.
If one person is speaking much less than others, a question can be directed to the person:  “(Name), you haven’t said much. What do you think?”
6.  Provide a gentle reminder to the group about the participant guidelines as needed.
Participant Guidelines

1. Start and end on time (this should be established in advance).

2. One person talks at a time.  The group might agree to raise hands and be called on by the facilitator.

3. Everyone has a chance to participate. 

4. Consider refraining from making a second comment until others have had an opportunity to talk.

5. Consider the length of remarks understanding that others want to participate.

6. Respect each person's right to his or her ideas.  

7. While we might disagree with each other, no person should be personally criticized or subjected to verbal abuse for expressing an idea. 
Before disagreeing with an idea, listen to it first.  Sometimes it helps to ask a clarifying question or state what you believe you heard to avoid misunderstandings.