Group Discussion

 Group discussion is a task, which resembles an informal conversation among a group of people. In a formal, scheduled discussion between 8 or 10 discussants each person expresses his or her views on a particular subject. It is now used widely as a kind of personality test to evaluate several candidates simultaneously. It is totally different from public speaking and an interview though the communication skills involved in all the three are similar. A group discussion involves both speaking and listening skills.

Nowadays Group Discussion is being extensively used along with personal interviews for the final selection of candidates. It plays a main role in selecting the best among the best. Having scored high marks, students who get selected for a higher/another course or employment are placed on a par - on equal footing - based on their age, qualification and experience. It becomes necessary to conduct further screening for choosing a few among many. It is here, the Group Discussion plays an important part. It helps in choosing the socially suitable candidate among the academically superior achievers. It is one of the best tools to study the behavioral and attitudinal responses of the participants. 
 Group Discussion is more a technique than a conventional test. In fact it is one of the most important and popular techniques being used in a number of personality tests. It is a technique or a method used for screening candidates as well as testing their potential. It is also designed as a situation test wherein a sample of a candidate's group worthiness and potential as a worker comes out quite explicitly.

 Informal and voluntary gathering of individuals (in person, through a conference call, or website) to exchange ideas, information, and suggestions on needs, problems, subjects, etc., of mutual interest. Discussion groups are one of the mainstays of the popularity of internet.

The Nature of Group Discussion
Group discussion occurs any time three or more people meet to solve a common problem, arrive at a decision, or answer a question of mutual interest.  The idea of cooperation is basic to discussion.  It means that the members of the group must share a desire to achieve a common goal.  They may not all wish to achieve that goal in exactly the same way, but they must be willing to devote their energies to reaching a group solution, rather than promoting their own individual agendas, solutions, or opinions.  This does not mean that there won't be differences of opinion in the group discussion, rather it means that each member must enter the group with an open mind, genuinely prepared to listen as well as to argue.

 Importance of Group Discussion

A Group Discussion helps problem solving , decision making and personality assessment. Whether one is a student, a job seeker ,a professional engineer or a company executive one needs effective GD skills. Students need to participate in academic discussions, meetings, classroom sessions or selection GDs for admission to professional courses. A job-seeker may be required to face selection GDs as part of the selection process. Professionals have to participate in different meetings at the workplace .In all these situations, an ability to make a significant contribution to group deliberation and helping the group in the process of decision making is required. The importance of GD has increased in recent times due to its increasing role as an effective tool in a)problem solving b)decision making c)personality assessment. In any situation of problem, the perceptions of different people are discussed, possible solutions are suggested. The best option is chosen by the group. While taking a decision, the matter is discussed, analysed, interpreted and evaluated.
While using GD as a tool for personality assessment, a topic-a problem, an opinion or a case - is given to the group consisting of eight to ten members seated in a circle.The total time given for discussion is usually 30 minutes.Each candidate is expected to voice his opinion and offer counter arguments. The selection committee evaluates the candidates on the basis of their personality,knowledge,communication skills and leadership skills. Hence it is important to be able to take part in the GD effectively and confidently.Participants should know how to persuade their group members, how to reflect leadership qualities and how to make the group achieve its goal. 

Guidelines for group discussion

Group discussion involves a number of persons with different ideas and points of view sitting together to talk in order to arrive at some conclusion or solve a problem they have in common. To make a group discussion effective the following points should be kept in mind.

Discussion must be goal-directed

Any group discussion is a task intended to accomplish some objectives that an individual alone cannot attempt. The effectiveness of a group discussion is measured not only by the ability and quantity of individual participation but also by the fact whether the group has a whole have been able to reach some sort of consensus on the issue at hand.

Every member must be responsibility for the group's effectiveness

The effectiveness of the group is further hampered by allowing one or two persons to monopolise all the exchanges with a hidden agenda and thereby simply sabotage and essentially democratic process. This is the risk when all discussants do not participate.

Every member must aim for co-operation and not conflict

In a group discussion, you must learn to disagree without being disagreeable. Have a positive attitude to handle conflicting points of view with tact and politeness without personally offending anyone. Consensus may be difficult to reach but not impossible.

An effective group discussion requires leadership

In a situation, where the discussants may be meeting each other for the first time, deciding on a leader to monitor and guide the discussion is not easy. But it has always been noticed that once the discussion begins, a leader normally emerges to guide the group. Such person should always act as a facilitator to create a cordinal atmosphere to ensure a smooth flow of ideas and views. A moderator should never act as a bulldozer.

Small group discussion

Why use small group discussion?
  • Students enjoy it
  • It allows active involvement by everyone
  • The shy and less articulate are more able to contribute
  • Students learn from each other
  • Everyone gets more practice at expressing their ideas
  • A two way discussion is almost always more creative than individual thoughts
  • Social skills are practiced in a 'safe' environment e.g. tolerance, cooperation
  • Discussion is essential to clarify arguments for a topic where there are no 'right answers'
Hints on running small group discussion
  • Make sure that the task is clear and has definite product which has to be communicated back.
  • Make sure they have enough knowledge and resources to complete the task.
  • Don't let it run for too long. Some groups will stray off task.
  • Drop in on groups for short periods with support or challenge as appropriate.
  • Make sure that seating allows everyone in the group to see each other, best round a table not side by side.
  • Do not allow one group to become too noisy. They will attract interest from other groups, who will then lose their own identity.
  • Normally groups work best with friends because they trust them but be prepared to break up groups which are not working. Some members will be pleased.
  • Allow time for feedback at the end and value the contributions of all groups.

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