Conducting Group Discussion
The ideal group usually consists of eight-ten participants. If the number of participants is more than that, then there is a tendency for some of the members to be passive listeners and avoid participation. Similarly, if the number of participants is less than six, the discussion suffers from a lack of diversity in opinions. The time allotted for the discussion is normally twenty-thirty minutes.
Cases like when the aim of the group discussion is teaching and learning or when the subject of the group discussion is uncommon or tough , the group discussion may be held under the guidance of a group leader or a facilitator. The group facilitator announces the topic and gives a brief introduction. He may give initial arguments to initiate the discussion. A certain degree of expertise is expected from the group leader. He is generally responsible for concluding and summarizing the discussion.
There are two ways of organizing a group discussion. In one case, the topic is given to the candidates well in advance and the participants are expected to come prepared for the discussion. In the other case, the topic is disclosed to the participants after they assemble and they are given about ten minutes to think about it
Types of Group Discussion
We will classify group discussions based on the following:
- Method of conduct
- Nature of topic
Based on the Method of Conduct
Bases on the method of conduct, group discussions can be further classified into the following:
(i) Structured Group Discussion: In this type of group discussion, the topic is given to the participants by the selectors and a time-frame is allotted to complete the discussion. This is the most commonly followed technique for a group discussion.
(ii) Unstructured Group Discussion: In unstructured group discussions, unlike in the case of structured group discussions, the candidates themselves decide the topic with mutual consent. This formal method of group discussions is rarely used.
(iii) Role Play: In this type of group discussion, the candidates are given specific roles to play in the backdrop of a given situation. Within the framework of their role, the participants have to solve the problems inherent in the situation given to them.
(iv) Group Discussion with a Nominated Leader: Generally, no-one is nominated as leader of a group discussion and all participants are treated as equal. But in this type of a group discussion, a person is nominated as a facilitator or a leader of the group. He may summarize the discussion or solutions discussed at the end of the group discussion. Sometimes the leader is nominated by the group members themselves.
Based on Nature of the Topic
Group discussions can also be categorized based on the topic allotted for the discussion to the participants. There are three kinds of topics-controversial topics, abstract topics and case study topics.
(i) Controversial Topics: These are topics which are controversial and which have the potential to generate an argument. Such topics generally make the discussion lively as arguments and counter arguments are presented. This gives the evaluators more opportunities to evaluate the candidates.
Examples of such topics include ‘Should the examination system be scrapped’ or ‘How ethical is cloning?’.
(ii) Abstract Topics: There is a growing trend of assigning abstract topics, that is, topics which are vague or unclear. These topics enable the evaluators to evaluate the creative ability of the candidates. Every candidate can have his own interpretation of the topic. Some such topics are ‘Zero’, ‘One and one make eleven’.
(iii) Case Study Topics: Here, a situation is provided to the participants which may depict a problem faced by the organization or the managers. Participants need to analyze the situation and think of various alternatives to solve the problem. This kind of a group discussion tests the ability of the candidate to think of solutions keeping the situational factors and constraints in mind.
Important Ingredients for Success In Group Discussions
There are certain important traits which are essential for being a successful participant in a group discussion. These include:
(i) Positive Personality: Group discussions are an effective tool for assessing the overall personality of the candidate. Personality includes not only one’s external appearance but also the traits one possesses. Thus, during group discussions the dressing style, speaking style, attitude towards others, presentation style, and so on, are evaluated. During the twenty-five-thirty minutes one has, one needs to create a favorable impression on the evaluators. A pleasing personality makes a favorable impression giving one an edge over the others.
(ii) Communication Skills: The key to an effective group discussion lies in the ability to communicate effectively through both one’s verbal and non-verbal skills. One needs to express the ideas and opinions logically and with clarity. Brilliant ideas and sound knowledge are of little use unless they are expressed properly. One needs to possess good oratory skills with a sound vocabulary. Besides being a good speaker, one needs to be a good listener because in group discussions one needs to speak keeping in mind what has been or is being said by others.
(iii) Sound Knowledge and Awareness Level: The participants’ knowledge and general awareness is another major ingredient for a successful group discussion. The participant needs to have originality in his/her ideas, that is, he should hold his own viewpoint and have considerable depth of knowledge. Lack of knowledge and ideas may lead to repetition and monotony. This is not a desirable and may go against one’s success.
(iv) Ability to Coordinate: The participant’s ability to coordinate the team and work in harmony with others is another ingredient for success in group discussions. Cooperation and positive contribution towards the discussion are vital. One must display the ability to take control of the discussion without operating to be dominating.