Discussion tools


GO ROUND – all the participants take turns speaking. An essential part of consensus culture. Can be used for instance if there is unequal participation; new people; low energy. Not good to use in group conflicts: draws conflict lines (for/against)

BRAINSTORM – anybody throwing ideas, in random order. Someone taking notes on a big paper.

FISHBOWL – this is a special form of small group discussion. There are many ways of doing this. But the basic idea is to put some chairs in a circle, with a group of people discussing an issue. The rest of the group sitting outside, listening and watching. Variations: Groups representing different opinions, taking turns, speaking in the circle. Or. Persons sitting in the circle. One or more chairs are empty for others to come in and speak. And so on. The idea with the fishbowl is to focus the discussion on clarifying what the issues are, and to get closer to a dialogue, and away from an argumentative debate. Can be healing and lead to greater understanding.

PAIRS – discuss in pairs, if a good idea comes out of the talk, share with the big group.

STEP FORWARD / STEP BACK – ask people to consider what roles they have in the discussion. Passive and silent persons are encouraged to speak more. And talkative, dominant ones are encouraged to take a more listening role. Reversing the roles. Used if there’s unequal participation.

Since our minds and learning work in many different ways, it can be good to physically move forward (if your silent) or back (if your talkative) when sitting in a circle in order to more easily reverse the roles.


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