Interactive discussion model (revised)

Last night I experimented with an interactive discussion model for the small group. I learned that:

I need to be more clear when giving instructions

People tend to be quick to say they agree or disagree before they’ve understood what the author or another participant has said

There is often overlap between a person’s original thoughts and the thoughts stimulated by someone else. These are not distinct categories. Keeping them distinct prohibits rather than facilitates discussion.

As a facilitator I need to encourage people to ask questions more than give answers.

Texts have to be kept very short.

I have to have one clear goal.

I have to have one clear topic.

I have to explain the purpose of everything I’m doing.

Writing on the board should be very minimal.

The idea of first understanding what the author meant and then seeking to hear the personal call in it is a revolutionary idea. Instead we are in the habit of thinking the answers are to be found within. This leads us to either study texts in a purely intellectual way or to interpret the text in a biased way making it serve our interests instead of seeing how it serves to call us out of our narrow perspective, to hear the call to response-ability.

As a result of what I learned I made some revisions to the model. Here is the old model which will be followed by the new revised model.

Interactive Discussion Model for the Small Group

Equipment: A white board. Each group participant has a notebook.

Stage I Interpretation: What was meant by the author? What do you think this statement means?
If it’s a question, how would you answer it?

The facilitators present a question to the group, which is written on the board. Contemplate the question and write (5 minutes) in your notebook any thoughts, answers or further questions that occur to you. Make two columns: “My thoughts” for your responses to the original question or statement and “Response to the response” with your responses to this person’s thoughts. For now, only write in the first column. One participant shares his or her thoughts with the group, for 3 minutes.

Stage II Collective mind: Expanding the spectrum of meaning

Take 7 minutes to write in your notebooks whatever thoughts are stimulated by this person’s ideas. Write it in the second column. This may take the form of further insights, questions addressed to that participant for clarification, additional questions this person’s idea raises, etc. In turn, for 3 minutes each, share your thoughts. A short synopsis of each person’s thought is written on the board under the first person’s comments. The board will look something like this:

• Question
• First participant’s response to the question
o A response to the response
o Second response to the response
o Third response to the response, etc.

Stage III Personal meaning (30 minutes)

The whole group now contemplates all the ideas put on the board, seeing them as one organic unit/”collective mind.” Write for 10 minutes a conclusion of sorts of the personal meaning this holds for you. In addition, how is this addressing/inviting/challenging us? How would I represent to others how our group has responded? What was written on the board before is erased. As each person shares out loud what he or she wrote, a shorthand version of this is written on the board.

Stage IV Highlighting values, meanings and uniqueness. (45 minutes)

In turn, each person is set up as the focus of attention, as each other participant gives a logotherapeutic response to the “focus participant” in the form of highlighting that person’s values or what seems to be a conscious or unconscious longing for meaning, challenging the person, noting in that person’s words a “key word” etc

Interactive Discussion Model for the Small Group (Revised)

Equipment: A white board and a huge white paper taped to wall. Each group participant has a notebook.

Stage I Interpretation: What was meant by the author? What do you think this statement means? If it’s a question, how would you answer it?

On the white board is a) A few short quotes related to a topic b) A question on the quotes.

Make two columns in your notebook: a) My thoughts and b) My thoughts stimulated by… Contemplate the question and write (5 minutes) in your notebook in the first column any thoughts or further questions on the quotes and any answers to the question you want to offer. Particularly emphasize thinking of questions. Make sure to write what you think the author means, not whether you agree or disagree and not how it speaks to you personally.

All the participants write a short synopsis of their ideas on the big white paper. One at a time (one minute each) participants share their thoughts with the group, explaining a bit more the meaning of what they wrote.

Stage II Collective mind: Expanding the spectrum of meaning

Take 10 minutes to contemplate what each person has written and to write in your notebooks in the second column any further insights stimulated by what one of the other participants wrote, questions you want to address to a different participant for clarification, additional questions this person’s idea raises, etc. Write in short on the white page the main ideas or questions for that other person, underneath where that person wrote it. Do this for as many of the other participants as you like.

In turn, for 3 minutes per person, each participant responds orally to what others have written under his or her original thoughts and makes written adjustments if desired.

Stage III Personal meaning and personal call (30 minutes)

Take 10 minutes to silently contemplate the relationship between the various ideas, seeing them as one organic unit or “collective mind” that incorporates various perspectives and highlights different meanings. Write for 10 minutes a conclusion of sorts of the personal meaning and personal call these quotes hold for you. How is this addressing/inviting/challenging us as a group? How would I represent to others how our group has responded?

Stage IV Highlighting values, meanings and uniqueness. (45 minutes)

Everyone gives a logotherapeutic response to each other in the form of highlighting that person’s values or what seems to be a conscious or unconscious longing for meaning in that person (noting in that person’s words a “key word” that highlights meaning), and also perhaps challenging the person and identifying strengths.

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