Facilitation of Groups

Identify 3-4 goals for the information you are gathering from group

  • Set up equipment before participants arrive.
  • The purpose is to generate discussion from the group.
  • It is okay for there to be silence. Feel free to pause to allow participants time to think.
  • As much as possible, let the participants use their own words and language (including vernacular).
  • Phrase the same question in a different way if participants do not seem to respond.
  • Summarize what you think you have heard and ask if the group agrees. Restate what the participant says using their exact words – do not paraphrase.
  • Ask if anyone else has any comments on the question before moving on.
  • Ask follow-up questions, use probes, use pauses.
  • Look around the room and make (brief) eye-contact, especially with those who haven’t spoken.


  • Ask leading questions. Ask multiple questions at once.
  • Give your own opinion.
  • Favor participants or responses. Take sides or challenge what is being said.
  • Finish people’s sentences or make assumptions.
  • Allow participants to dominate the conversation.
  • Permit side discussion.
  • Use jargon.

  • Be mindful and use subtle group management strategies – experts, dominant talkers, shy participants, ramblers.
  • If someone is dominating the conversation, respectfully acknowledge their contribution, thank them, and open it up for someone else to speak.
  • I really appreciate your comments. [make direct eyecontact with others] I’m interested in hearing how other people feel about this issue.
    If the conversation diverges from topic intervene, politely summarize the point and refocus the conversation. Take advantage of a pause and say “Thank you for that interesting idea. Perhaps we can come back and discuss it later. For the purposes of exploring our main topic, I would like to move on to another item.” These are important and interesting points. However, we need to bring the discussion back to our main focus on …
  • Address questions directly to individuals who are quiet.
  • If someone says that they do not feel comfortable answering a question, say thank you and that you acknowledge and appreciate their honesty.
  • Minimize pressure for participants to conform to a dominant viewpoint. Consider probing for alternative views (see below).
  • When reacting to what participants say verbal and nonverbal (head nodding), short verbal responses and avoid “that’s good” or “excellent”.

  • Use pauses (5 seconds).
  • Nonverbal cues, such as nodding, shrugging, eye contact, and active listening.
  • Short responses such as: yeah, mhmm, oh, okay.
  • Ask them to elaborate. Can you tell me more about that? / Can you say more about…? You mentioned earlier…, can you talk a bit more about that? Would you explain further? / Can you elaborate on … Would you give an example? How so?
  • Use neutral language and encourage participants to speak.
    I see. / That’s interesting.
    Use open ended questions that begin with: when, what, where, which, and how.
  • Try to avoid asking “WHY” directly, as it can make people feel defensive and then take the “politically correct” side of an issue (social confirmation bias).
  • Probe for alternative points of view. We have had an interesting discussion, but let’s explore other points of view. Has anyone had a different experience they wish to share?
  • Ask for use instead of meaning, if possible. Rather than asking “what do you mean by …” ask, “Can you give me an example of …”

  • Is there anything else you all would like to share? [pause] If not, we can move on to the next question.
  • Does anyone else have a comment about this last question/item?
  • Thank you for sharing. Has anyone had a similar/different reaction they would like to add?
  • Who else has something they would like to add?
  • I would like to hear more from ….
  • These are important and interesting points. However, we need to bring the discussion back to our main focus on …

Set up Room

  • If possible, arrange chairs in a circle.
  • Consider bringing chart paper, markers and easel to write and display ground rules and to use to take notes.


  • Have the host of the event do an introduction, if there is one.
  • Introduce yourself (facilitator) and scribe and where you are from.
  • Thank participants for their time and attention!


  • Our goal for this focus group is to hear about your thoughts, opinions, and perspectives about how students should be involved in bullying prevention efforts in the school.
  • Your ideas will help us to create a guide for all of Pennsylvania schools for students who want to work with an advisor to help our schools place bullying prevention in the forefront through student engagement and student voice.
  • We encourage open participation! Again, our goal is to hear your opinion.
  • This discussion will last no longer than one hour.
  • First I will go over some housekeeping and ground rules. Then we will start our conversation.

Ground rules

  • Does anyone know what a focus group is and/or the purpose of conducting a focus group?
  • What guidelines do we need to make our group a safe place to share our thoughts and feelings? Example: Do not use other students’ names when talking about situations. All ideas count. Be respectful of one other’s thoughts. Listen when others are speaking.
  • Raise your hand if you would like to add a comment or new thought
  • Well, now that we have introduced ourselves and covered ground rules, let’s begin. I’ll start with general questions and show some clips later on in the discussion.

Determine 8-10 questions you want to ask the group to get the information needed to make decisions moving forward or develop your movement.