Talking About Race: Discussion Guide

Tips for Facilitating Discussion

 Create a comfortable atmosphere

Smile! Be interested in what people are saying and let that interest show. Look at the person who is speaking. Maintain positive, open body language.

 Encourage participation

Encourage participants to share opinions by using comment such as, “good point,” “excellent idea,” “great question,” etc. This may mean working harder to draw out some quieter participants as well as dealing patiently with those who are resistant to the information or subject matter. If you sense there are opposing views that participants are reluctant to express but could benefit the discussion, welcome them to share by making a comment such as “I could really see how someone might feel that….”

 Avoid lecturing

Be sure that participants do not feel that they are being told how to think and believe. They should feel that they play an important role in the information that is being given. When it is beneficial for you to give out information, make sure you give participants the opportunity to process the lesson and discuss what they have learned.

 Do not dominate the discussion

Participants will learn a great deal from listening to each other. Let others express their views. Expressing your view too soon may be interpreted as the only “right” opinion. This may intimidate participants and prevent them from sharing. If one or two participants are dominating the discussion, point out that any discussion about difference is most valuable when many perspectives are expressed.

Provide a variety of discussion formats

Realize that some people find it hard to express their views in the large group but might feel comfortable speaking in dyads or small groups.

 Allow silence

Be careful not to jump in every time there is a pause in the conversation. Silence can be very valuable in allowing time for participants to process information or collect their thoughts for a response.

 Use humor with care

Humor used appropriately can do a great deal to help maintain a positive interaction. The use of sarcasm however can cause participants to feel that others are laughing at them instead of with them.

 Provide outside resources

If you do not know the answer to a question, the best thing to do is to admit to it and volunteer to help find the information and provide it at a later time.

 Note: This list of facilitation tips is just a start. Please consult texts listed in the section titled “Selected Resources for Developing Educational Workshops and Courses” for more information.

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