Role of the facilitator

A good discussion leader is vital to the success of a study circle. It is not necessary to have training or experience in facilitating group discussion as long as you are enthusiastic, friendly, a good listener and able to think on your feet. It is essential that you understand the study circle concept, know your role and prepare carefully for each session. You do not need to be an expert in the topic being discussed but you should know enough about it to be able to ask sensible questions and to raise points that have been missed by the group. You must be able to create a friendly atmosphere of cooperation and trust where participants are comfortable sharing their opinions and ideas. You are not a teacher; you do not have answers to all the questions; you help the group find their own answers.

Tips for effective discussion leadership

Be prepared

Be the best prepared person in the room. This means understanding the goals of the study circle, being familiar with the subject, thinking ahead of time about the directions in which the discussion might go, and preparing discussion questions to help the group in considering the subject. Solid preparation will enable you to give your full attention to group dynamics and to what individuals in the group are saying.

Set a relaxed and open tone

Establish clear ground rules

At the beginning of the study circle ask the participants to help you lay out the ground rules on a flip chart and ask if they agree to them or want to add anything. Keep the list and post it for each meeting as a reminder. Some typical ground rules are:

Identify the goal or purpose

Make sure you all know why you are there. Ask for a list of questions the participants want answered. Keep it and post it for each meeting for reference. Review the agenda or study plan and adjust it to suit the participants.

Assist the group process

Help the group grapple with the content

Use questions to help make the discussion more productive

Reserve adequate time for closing the discussion

Back Home Page Next Page