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Essays on Teaching Excellence Toward the Best in the Academy

A publication of The Professional & Organizational Development Network in Higher Education Facilitating Group Discussions: Understanding Group Development and Dynamics Kathy Takayama, Brown University Facilitating discussions requires the ability to engage different perspectives and skills in response to the needs of the group. How well a group works together depends upon the dynamics among participants and the ability of the facilitator to gauge and respond to these dynamics. An effective facilitator works to create an inclusive learning environment while being prepared to set boundaries and rules when necessary. Yet, even experienced facilitators can be confronted with situations or individuals that prevent the group from functioning. Such situations are even more daunting for new faculty and graduate student Teaching Assistants (TAs) who are new to leading groups. What reflective practices can prepare facilitators and participants for productive group discussions? This essay describes an approach which combines multiple resources with an explanation on how one teaching center used them to foster self-awareness among facilitators and the students in their discussion groups. At Brown Universitys Sheridan Center, we used self-assessment of individual behavior, together with participatory observation of

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