A group discussion is the formal or informal group of individuals with similar area interest, holding the verbal or non-verbal conversation on the subject. This is a very common practice followed in organizations to come up with the idea, solve an issue, or generate an opinion. It is a very positive approach to create understanding and learning. Thus can be utilized into the education mechanism for enhancing the students' analytical, cognitive and logical skills.
The organizations, thus, are actively holding group discussion sessions for their students. If not, in the classroom, through different online platforms like discussion forums, WhatsApp groups, Facebook, LinkedIn group, Groupfloor, google plus, etc. Undoubtedly, these discussions have a positive impact on students, at times it increases anxiety among them due to various reasons such as discussion topic or preparedness, etc. But this does not take away the hidden success that group discussion ensures. Below are specific benefits and influence of discussion on student education.
Group Discussion and Education
The present-day education system is slowly and steadily incorporating “Group discussion” into the learning system. It has been observed that the group Discussion opens up the students to the topic in a better way than conventional classroom teaching. The traditional classroom teaching-learning gets limited to a certain point as it does actively involves students in the learning processes. It works on the approach of the speaker and a listener. Whereas, group discussion involves students actively in the process of learning. The students are not mere listeners over here, but, they are also the speaker.
This approach works well for both, the teacher and the student. While discussing the topic in the group, a teacher gets to know how much students have understood the concept by way of their conversation in the group; the students get to know the topic in detail by sharing their viewpoints with each other. This leads to concept development among students. Once the student knows the concept in great depth, he/she can apply it in the real sense. There are many other advantages and benefits of incorporating discussion as a technique into the learning process of the students. Such as,
Advantages of Group Discussion in the learning process
Group Discussion is the most effective strategy used to increase learning. It is easy to use, straightforward, and often observed accomplishing the learning goals. It is the most valued approach for imparting knowledge and generating opinions among the students. There are many different types of discussion. In schools, colleges, or other educational institution, teachers can form different groups and initiate the discussion among the students. Such discussions have a positive effect on students. Such as
Explore different perspectives –
When the teacher initiate group discussions among the students, students' cognitive skill gets to develop. Students adapt to a different viewpoint on the topic. More clarity on the concepts generates the various questions put up by the students. Discussions also inform the teacher, how well the students understand the topic. The pedagogy style brings forward the best learning experience.
Discussion leads to subject exploration –
The discussion leads to topic exploration in great depth. Compared to other ways of learning such as reading and lectures, the discussion is a more efficient way for subject exploration. The discussion leads to the exploration of small aspects and details of the topics that otherwise get ignored in the traditional teaching ways. The best thing about the discussion is that it is student-driven. The student questions and answers automatically drive the learning in the direction the students need to learn about the subject.
Active participation –
Compared to teaching style - reading the curriculum or notes in the class, discussion sees better student engagement in the class. Active participation leads to a better understanding of the concept. As the students understand the concept in great depth, they are able to apply the concept as and when required, acting as a significant driving force behind their success.
The discussion makes the student comfortable with the complexity and ambiguity -
The major difficulty faced by the students and teachers is the complex nature of the concept. It is difficult to make students understand difficult concepts with lots of attached complexity. The complex nature of the concept at times generates ambiguity among the students in relation to the subject. Discussion helps to avoid such complexity and uncertainty as it encourages students to participate actively rather than passively by means of questions and answers. Discussions, generally involve questions, counter questions along with solutions.
The concept gets unfold step-by-step rather than making them understand all in one go. Decoding the concept in layer helps students know it thoroughly making them comfortable rather than generating complexity and ambiguity.
Helps in the development of Critical Thinking –
The open-ended question rounds in the group discussion encourage the development of critical thinking
Social and communication skill development -
Apart from the subject learning, Group Discussion develops the students' social and communication skills. When the students participate in group discussions, they learn the way of holding a conversation in small-large groups. They become better speakers and listeners. They learn to hold healthy debates by enhancing their articulation skills.
Encourage the development of democratic habit among the students –
While discussing in the group, students tend to develop democratic habits. In other words, they learn to accept different opinions on the same aspect.
Discussing in the group involves, articulation of an argument and counter-argument –
While discussing the topic in the group, it has to be an argument with substantial evidence to be acceptable in the group. This requires articulation skills; thus students by participating in the group develop articulation skills.
Conducting the right Group Discussion for students success
The group discussions can be valuable for the students if they are held with a purpose. The teachers shall consider the goal they want to achieve with the discussion. The teachers shall make sure the goal of the discussion is consistent with the curriculum. Once the goal is decided, it is easy to form a stimulating discussion question and the strategy for rightly engaging the students.
After deciding the goal, the teacher shall consider, how to achieve the goal. To accomplish the discussion goal, it is essential to strategies it rightly. This will include, how to spark the discussion, how-to guide students through the discussion, how to make students participate actively in the discussion? How to connect the ideas discussed in the group? How to correct the facts in the discussion?
For the discussion to be productive, ethical questions are essential. At each and every level of discussion, the question asked shall be able to prove a more in-depth analysis of the topic. There are different types of questions that can be initiated during the discussion, such as
• Exploratory Question –
These questions are taken up in the discussion to probe the fact and basic knowledge
• Challenge Question-
These question helps to interrogate the assumption considered in the concept. It also helps to derive the conclusion.
• Relational Question –
As the name suggests, it is to find out the different relation between, themes, ideas, and issues.
• Action Question –
The questions that call for some conclusion or action are regarded as Action question
• Cause and effect question –
These are the casual question that develops cause and effect relation of the concept
• Extension Question -
These are the occasional question asked during the discussion to unfold the concept
• Hypothetical question –
These questions can cause the change in the facts of the concept;
• Priority Question –
These are being raised to arrive at the solution on priority bases
• Summary Question –
These are the one that leads to elicit synthesis if the concept
Once the questions have been developed, they need to be synthesized. The teacher shall drive the discussion from easy questions to more complex questions. If the teacher does not initiate the right structure of the questions, the group discussion can go flat.
Also, while initiating the group discussion in the classroom, the instructor shall set the rules or guidelines to ensure the harmonious environment throughout the discussion. The rules can be such as avoiding, use of put-downs, and disrupting the flow of discussion. The students shall be informed about respectfully conducting the conversation with each other during the discussion.
The right classroom set-up is also essential for group discussion. The discussion can be held either in a circular form or a U-shaped formation. In case the goal of the discussion is to enter into the dialogue with each other than the conventional seating arrangement is not a good option. The additional seating arrangement Socratic can be adopted if the discussion has to be carried where the instructor asks the question and the students indulge in answering.
Apart from the classroom set-up, the teacher also shall look into the format of Group Discussion. If, as an instructor, you are strategizing a brainstorming session for the students and during the session plan to use the board, make sure you make students sit where they can see the board clearly. If the discussion involves small student groups, chairs, and tables shall be positioned such that the instructor can walk through each group. If the teacher organizes discussion as a group assignment that involves hands-on manipulation and articulation about the subject, the sitting arrangement shall be doe accordingly.
Reasons for unsuccessful Group Discussion
The group discussion can go wrong, if too many questions are being asked or if the self-question and answer carry the discussion. Also, if the answers fail to probe or explore the concept, the discussion will not achieve the required purpose. The unrelated questions or too many yes/no questions can also deviate the discussion away from the goal that will make it lose the purpose of carrying the discussion.
The discussion is most fruitful when carried with the focus. The appropriate conclusion and maintaining the right track throughout the discussion is the best group discussion for the students to learn from. If the instructor finds some lulls during the discussion, the instructor can intervene and introduce the new question, to keep moving the discussion on the right track.
Before, concluding the discussion, the instructor shall have a summarizing session. The instructor can either assign the task to the individual student or ask individually to each student to write down the summary or important ‘take-away’ points.
How to encourage students for Group Discussion
To make students more active in the discussion, the instructor shall inform the students about the possible gains from the discussion. Sometimes, students fail to realize the importance of group activity and shy away from participating. Thus, if they know about personality and skill development, they will be motivated and encouraged to participate actively in the group discussion.
Also, the discussion topic can be the reason for students not participating in the discussion. The student background or less preparedness can also discourage them from participating in the discussion.
In such instances, where the teacher observes students not participating in the discussion, the teacher shall create an atmosphere of discussion beforehand. An ice-breaking session at the beginning of the semester can help to hold a successful group discussion. Guide the students about relevant reading before conducting the group discussion.
In conclusion, the right group discussion can lead to student success by developing cognitive skills. Indeed, there goes a lot of planning and consideration for leading a group discussion. However, the time-spend on group discussion surely gets the return in the form of student success.
As learning is not just merely about the specific subject or topic, but there is the overall development of the students. The students along with knowledge gains learn different skills that enhance their personality and help in their overall growth. However, the group discussion has certain disadvantages such as – conversation being dominated by a few students, while a few others may have a difficult time participating in the group. This can also be hard for non-auditory learners to absorb the facts of the subject.