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Group Discussion

In English Language, there are many ways we can develop our speaking and listening skills. 'But why is speaking and listening important?' I hear you ask. Well, good speaking and listening skills allow you to communicate effectively with others by expressing your own views while also being mindful of opposing opinions. One way we can develop our speaking and listening skills is through group discussions. 

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Group Discussion

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In English Language, there are many ways we can develop our speaking and listening skills. 'But why is speaking and listening important?' I hear you ask. Well, good speaking and listening skills allow you to communicate effectively with others by expressing your own views while also being mindful of opposing opinions. One way we can develop our speaking and listening skills is through group discussions.

In this explanation, we will explore the importance of group discussion and look at some key types and examples. We will also consider possible rules when it comes to having a fair debate and some tips on how to discuss confidently.

What is Group Discussion?

As the title suggests, a group discussion involves conversing with others in a group setting. A group discussion usually has a primary aim - such as debating an idea, persuading, etc. Groups can be small (a few people) or large (such as a whole classroom).

Why Are Group Discussions Important?

Group discussions are important as they encourage teamwork and allow students to improve their speaking and listening skills. Discussing well in groups will enable you to confidently express your opinion while also being able to respect the views of others.

What Are the Advantages of a Group Discussion?

Group discussions help students stay engaged in the topic and maintain focus. They also encourage teamwork and introduce students to other points of view outside of their own. Students can also improve their active listening and speaking skills, which in turn, helps them communicate more effectively.

Group discussions also allow people from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds to communicate with one another and share ideas. This is beneficial to students as it gives them the chance to view things from a different perspective and appreciate other interpretations. Not only does this develop their knowledge, it also creates a stronger sense of understanding and respect between participants.

Group Discussion Types

We will focus on three main types of group discussions, which are:

  1. Topic-based discussions
  2. Case study-based discussions
  3. Abstract discussions

Let's take a look at each type in more detail.

Topic-based Discussions

A topic-based discussion refers to a conversation in which the participants are given a topic to discuss. This could include:

1. Controversial topics (such as political, social, or environmental issues) - Topics like these often relate to current affairs and events. They tend to evoke strong differences in opinion, which could lead to quite a heated/passionate argument!

2. Knowledge-based topics (such as more specific subjects taught in school) - These topics rely on the group's shared knowledge of a particular area, meaning the whole group should be familiar with the topic. Discussions are often in-depth and focused, as the participants already have a lot of relevant information. For example, the subject of 'multimodality in the media' is more specific to English Language and relies on previous knowledge of the topic.

Case Study-based Discussions

A case study-based discussion refers to a conversation in which participants are given a situation and should communicate together to provide a solution. These discussions test the participants' abilities to problem solve and make decisions together. For example:

'A student is unaware of which level of formality to use in certain situations. How would you tell them about the different levels of formality in a way that is easy to understand? Discuss this in groups, taking into consideration the five main language registers.'

Abstract Discussions

An abstract discussion is a discussion without a precise topic or a topic not well-known by the participants. For example, the topic could be a random word or sentence or a thought-provoking quote. Abstract discussions are often more unpredictable and encourage creativity.

Group Discussion Examples

Now let's take a look at some examples of different discussions.

Topic-based discussion example:

The topic is 'The effect of social media on our language.' Discuss the idea that social media is having either a positive or negative effect on how we communicate in society today.

This is an example of a controversial topic - it may divide opinions or cause a debate. It encourages participants to give their own views and counter any opposing arguments.

Another topic-based discussion example:

The topic is 'The use of figurative language in The Great Gatsby.' Discuss how figurative language is used in the novel to add meaning.

This is an example of a knowledge-based topic. It is more specific to the subject of English Language and Literature and relies on existing knowledge of the text.

Case study-based discussion example:

Case study:

Sarah is a native speaker of Spanish and is learning English as a second language. She is struggling with the pronunciations of words in English. Considering the use of the International Phonetic Alphabet, discuss ways in which Sarah could be taught phonetic pronunciation in a simple and effective way. Can you think of any exercises she could do in order to improve her pronunciation skills?

This example encourages participants to work together and problem-solve to create an efficient solution.

Abstract discussion example:

Abstract topic: Less is more.

This vague topic is open to interpretation and encourages participants to think outside the box.

Group Discussion Rules

Although there's no actual rulebook for group discussions, there are some unspoken rules that people should abide by to create a fair and respectful discussion. Here are a few things to keep3 in mind:

1. Listen actively

It may be obvious that listeners in a discussion should listen. But, you should ensure that the speaker is aware you are paying attention. To show you are actively listening, you can use non-verbal cues, such as eye contact, nodding/shaking your head, and leaning forward. This will signify to the speaker that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say and are engaged in the discussion.

2. Make sure everyone has the opportunity to speak

Although it is important to listen, it is equally important to be able to speak up and share your own opinion. Make sure everyone is given a chance to speak. You can do this by turn-taking, which is when one person in a conversation talks at a time. This gives everyone a fair chance to speak without being interrupted.

Group Discussion Turn-taking StudySmarterFig. 1 - Turn-taking is important as it helps to minimize interruptions.

3. Don't use offensive language or criticize others harshly

There may be differences in opinion, but this should not be an excuse to be unnecessarily rude or judgmental. Respect the opinions of others - criticize ideas, not people!

Group Discussion Tips

It can be difficult for some people to participate in group discussions, and that's okay! Here are some tips to consider:

  • Try to speak clearly so others can hear you - if you speak too quietly or too fast, you may be more difficult to understand, and listeners may be distracted from your point.

  • It's okay to pause and think about what you want to say. This will not only give the listeners a chance to reflect on what you are saying but also gives you the chance to gather your thoughts.

Group Discussion Thinking is allowed StudySmarterFig. 2 - It is okay to think about what to say before speaking!

  • Pay attention to what others are saying - use non-verbal cues such as eye contact to let speakers know you are interested in what they have to say.

  • You can also use the views of others to help develop your own argument. For example, if you agree with someone, you could develop their point by adding to what they have already discussed. Or, if you disagree, you could offer an alternative point of view.

  • Try using a system that ensures everyone has a chance to speak. This could involve turn-taking by going round a circle one-by-one or only allowing those who raise their hand or hold a dedicated 'talking stick' to talk.

Group Discussion - Key Takeaways

  • A group discussion involves having a conversation with others in a group setting.
  • Group discussions encourage teamwork and allow participants to improve their speaking and listening skills.
  • The three main types of group discussions are topic-based, case study-based, and abstract.
  • During group discussions, make sure you listen actively, take turns speaking, and respect the opinions of others.
  • To communicate confidently, try to speak clearly, pause and think about what you want to say, and pay attention to others.

Frequently Asked Questions about Group Discussion

A group discussion involves having a conversation with others in a group setting. 

As the name suggests, group discussion refers to a discussion in groups. Group discussions are important as they encourage teamwork and allow participants to improve their speaking and listening skills.

An example of a group discussion is as follows:


Topic-based discussion:

The topic is 'free school meals.' Discuss the idea that all meals should be free to kids at school.

The types of group discussion are:


Topic-based discussions

Case study-based discussions

Abstract discussions

Group discussions help students stay engaged in the topic and maintain focus. They also encourage teamwork and introduce students to a range of different perspectives outside of their own. Students are also able to improve their active listening and speaking skills, which in turn helps them to communicate more effectively.

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

Which of the following indicates that you are actively listening to a speaker?

Which of the following is not a non-verbal cue?

True or false?Group discussions encourage teamwork.

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