Principles and Guidelines in Organizing a Group Discussion

The standard agenda (Rothwell, 2007) is a seven-step method of organizing a group discussion.

Define the Problem. The group members must first have an agreement regarding what needs to be done in order to look for solutions to the problem. Defining the problem requires defining the terms of the question (e.g., How do we increase student performance in the standardized achievement tests?) and eliminating bias (e.g., Who receives the most benefit once the problem is solved?).

Analyze the Issues. Analyzing the issues involve gathering data regarding the issue, including the causes to the problem, previous solutions to the problem, and the desired results of the proposed solutions.

Establish Criteria. Having some criteria helps members evaluate the soundness of a decision or solution and avoid creating more problems.

Generate Solutions. When the group has already reviewed the research and studied the issue, the group members may begin brainstorming possible solutions to a problem without criticizing each other’s ideas.

Evaluate Solutions. After generating solutions, the members must then evaluate these against the criteria and choose the best possible solution to the problem.

Choose and Implement the Best Decision. Implementation involves not only recommending what needs to be done (e.g., writing a formal report) but also identifying the specifics (e.g., including the date of the implementation, etc.) and taking action.

Develop an Action Plan to Monitor the Solution. The last step is to develop an action plan to monitor whether the group’s decision is effective in solving the problem. This also enables the members to identify possible problems in implementation that are overlooked in the discussion and modify some of the aspects of implementation.