Think about the last group discussion you facilitated with students on placement.  Did it generate interest from the students?  Did everyone have an opportunity to participate? Were the learning objectives of the group discussion met?

In the planning and preparation for group discussion, it is important that supervisors consider the desired learning outcomes and associated assessment from the group discussion, and, the roles of group members in these discussions.

A well facilitated group discussion will help students to explore their own and other people’s perspectives as part of their learning journey. Tips for supervisors to facilitate group discussions with students are illustrated in the animation below:



To summarise, supervisors can facilitate effective group discussions with student by:

  • Creating a positive learning environment
  • Fostering constructive and positive communication
  • Promoting participation

Strategies for potential problems in group discussion and strategies

The participant who dominates the discussion

  • Redirect the discussion to another person or another topic
  • Reframe their comments and ask for other participants’ views
  • Break group in to smaller task groups

The participant who does not talk

  • Provide opportunity for smaller group discussions or paired work
  • Ask opinion questions so there is no wrong answer
  • Ask participants to write down their ideas or come to the discussion with prepared material

Discussion that turns in to a debate or an argument

  • If the difference is fact based, refer to the appropriate text or article
  • Write both sides on a white board and encourage inspection and discussion
  • Focus on the ideas rather than the people

Unclear comments

  • Ask for examples and evidence to support the comment
  • Restate points and ask for clarification

Going off track

  • List the goals of the discussion at the start of the group
  • Write questions on the whiteboard
  • Summarise the comments and relate them back to the goals of the discussion

Participant who attacks the facilitator

  • It may be that the participant is seeking attention so provide recognition and then move the discussion on
  • Turn the question back to the questioner. For example, ‘My previous Clinical Educator said we shouldn’t ......’ “ok, I do that because...[provide rationale]. What are some other ways you could do ...”
  • Confront the questioner with your reaction to the question. For example,  "when you ...(do something), I feel... (angry, confused, etc.) and would like to... (change the way this is going)
  • Use active listening strategies to paraphrase the message they heard and check if that was what the questioner was asking
  • Locating the question by asking the participant to explain the context behind the question
  • Reframing – clarify the assumptions behind the question and ask the participant to consider alternative possibilities
  • Deferring – Ask the participant to talk to you at a different time.


  • The Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning (nd) Tips on Facilitating Effective Group Discussions. Retrieved from:
  • Health Education and Training Institute (2023). Clinical supervision: The superguide: a handbook for supervising allied health professionals
  • Centre for Teaching Excellence (nd) Facilitating Effective Discussions. University of Waterloo.  Accessed June 2022 from:


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