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DISCUSSION METHOD

This method is directed towards drawing out the experiences of the participants
either to think through an issue in all its forms or generate a unified preceptor
perspective on an otherwise unstructured problem among the participants.
However, to use this technique, careful preparations are necessary in helping the
participants to register the need to understand another point of view without
necessarily agreeing with it. It is also necessary to appreciate the advantages of
growing by imbibing another persons experience. The discussions can be
amongst the participants themselves or with participants on one side and the
more informed subject experts on the other. It can also be a discussion among
the experts with the participants listening. Classifications are elaborated further
below:
The advantage of the discussion method is best visible in areas where one needs
to stimulate ideas and situations (i) participants are to be encouraged; (ii) relate
their own experiences to the concept being discussed. The discussion leader in
such a situation requires advanced planning, careful preparation and
encouraging the involvement of individuals and controlling the debate as well as
summarising the reasons of the meeting to enable suitable follow up action.
Before a discussion is undertaken, the objectives of the discussion need to be
clearly established and the necessary information gathered in advance. Lack of
precise information on the subject matter of discussion can very often give rise
to misinterpretation and erroneous conclusions. Usually gravity of presentation
facilitates discussions because each one then is under pressure to evaluate the
merit of his point of view and present only that perspective which is an
advancement on the state- of-art existing in the discussion. The discussion
method of-course enables optimal participation subject to people observing
time.
The discussion technique can be broadly classified under three heads
a) Structured Discussion
b) Group Discussion and
c) Panel Discussion

a) Structured Discussion
A structured discussion is aimed towards specific learning objectives. These
objectives distinguish the discussion from a social conversation or from the
discussion in the staff meeting. It is self evident that to make this work, a
learning objective must be clearly explained in advance. One of the effective
ways of doing this has been found to be one of distributing an agenda
detailing the topics to be discussed and the time duration of the conversation .
The facilitator provides an opportunity to all the participants to develop this
agenda within the constraints of the time table. The group is provided

preparation time and if need be the opportunity to gather information on the


relevant agenda. The structured activity, with proper planning, enables
articulation of the relevant experiences and feelings. The facilitator can very
often come to an opening on the trainees ability at making constructive
suggestions and his competency
in progressing towards the learning
objectives. In such situations, it is important for the trainer to realise that he
is not to use any controlling devices over and beyond occasionally, in the
event of the discussion getting off the track, to remind the group of keeping
the discussion focused.
The facilitator aids arriving at meaningful results if he divides the subject
matter into its constituent parts. An alternative strategy could be to divide
the group members into smaller compositions and to give a proportionate
part of the subject matter to each group for discussion. Then subsequently,
the conclusions of each group could be brought together to form a unified
picture. However, for this technique to yield results, it is important that
negative approach be totally eliminated.
The disadvantage of this method is that different members working on
different aspects of the problem very often may work to what is the solution
with varying premises and this will enhance the problems of reconciliation. A
pre-emptive strategy can be of the group meeting together in unison before
the discussion of the several components of the group to develop a unified
state of premises. This keeps the total focus of the discussion clear and
disagreements are reduced to a minimal.

b) Group Discussion
Group Discussion is also a technique which can yield dividends in certain
circumstances. It encourages the participants to expect the reality that there
are other points of views on a given topic than the ones they hold. This
encourages coming to terms with reality, as also recognising that one has to
have a certain force of conviction and strength of ideas to be heard. Group
behaviour has a salutary effect in taking the chips off the shoulders of those
who see themselves as superior to others. The one who survives a group
discussion situation effectively is in all likelihood probably worth looking at as
an managerial material. Group discussions also encourage identifying
problems and sorting them out in an effective manner as well as sharing of
ideas as a polynomial influence. The participants realise that to make a
contribution , one would have to be fully conversant with the subject matter
being discussed and strength of a conversationist at the pitch of the voice
does not necessarily contribute to ones effectiveness. Team work, collective
spirit, mutual tolerance, sharing of ideas are some of the indices of group
discussion.
Sometimes, group discussion can be woven around a pre-identified group
leader, on other occasions a group leader may be left to emerge as a part of
the discussion. If a group leader has been identified before the discussion, it

is his moral responsibility to ensure that all the facts and figures are available
with him. He should be ready with his perceptions of the key issues involved
and should be able to reduce discussion time by a rigorous analysis of not
only the issues but the possible courses of action and their costs. Given
sufficient stature, he can guide the participants by asking intelligent
questions. Obviously in a group discussion situation, there should be no
attempt at stifling an opening but each one should be encouraged to come
out at his best. Similarly, an eye has to be kept on the time wasters such as
inevitable participants who would be irrepressible and will speak more to be
noticed than to be heard, the unavoidable participant again who has
something to say but will not come out of it unless cajoled. Somewhere in
between the two extremes, will be people who repeat points and be anxious
to note their personal experience even though it makes no contribution to the
direction of the discussion. A group discussion situation is on the whole, a
wholesome one and encourages certain skills in people which are useful in
any decision-making process. Aberrations may occur and these may take the
form of heated arguments or rigidity of approach which does not necessarily
contribute to problem solving. For such purposes as of effective discussion in
a group, the numerics matter and usually a strength of 15 has been found to
be optimal. The trainer must summarise the main points that emerge during
the discussion towards the end so that everyone knows where the matter
stands.

c) Panel Discussion
This is a technique in which the real purpose is to have a knowledgeable
expose of a given subject. Usually such subjects require either deep research
or insight to be explored fully. The process begins by a careful matching of
the subject to be treated and the technique to be used. Not all topics can be
equally usefully explored through panel discussion method. A touch of
diversity of opening and perceptions in the subject matter should be inherent
before it is decided to be treated on a panel discussion. Illustratively, it may
serve little purpose to have a developed discussion on a subject matter like
all companies must grow to survive. But on the other hand , a panel
discussion on the level of participative management that a given organisation
can take, can be eminently suitable for a panel discussion method. Usually
the panel discussion has a moderator and it is the responsibility of this
moderator to pose issues to outline the trend of the discussion, gently
remind, recapitulate and, if so required ,cajole.
He should be the person responsible for steering discussion. His knowledge of
the subject matter should be clearly deep and creditably high with the other
participants. He should be familiar with the strengths of the different
panellists and bowl them appropriate questions. He may participate in the
panel discussion himself to contribute. A panel discussion can be structured in
a two fold manner. One, in which the panellists make their point, the audience
listens and that is the end of the story. In another manner of panel discussion,
panelists make their point and then begins an interaction process with the

audience, who not only draw out the participants of the panel on what they
feel needs more clarification or is contradicting, the audience can also make
its contribution. This leads to a greater sense of involvement. In training
situation, a panel discussion is usually helpful in multiplying time and puts
together a collection of views which would otherwise not be normally
available to the participants. Usually panel discussions are not known to meet
out a very detailed analysis.
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