An informal meetingWorking in groups is quite different than working individually. One of the main reasons why students find it difficult is that they were not trained to perform effectively in a team setting. An instructor can help by teaching organizational, personal, and discussion skills that will help students manage group dynamics and have a positive teamwork experience. Meetings are key events during group work, and there are several techniques for running effective meetings.

Planning and running a meeting

Steps that should be taken before a meeting happens:

  • plan the meeting carefully: who, what, when, where, why, and how many
  • prepare and send out an agenda, identifying issues to be discussed
  • set up meeting room send out background information about members

Steps that should be taken during a meeting

  • start on time
  • make introductions of group members
  • clearly define roles
  • review, revise, and order the agenda
  • set clear time limits
  • review action items from previous meeting
  • focus on one issue at a time

Steps that should be taken at the end of and after a meeting

  • record final decisions or actions to be taken
  • assign tasks to group members
  • set deadlines for the tasks
  • set the date and place of the next meeting and develop a preliminary agenda
  • evaluate the meeting, get feedback from members
  • close the meeting positively
  • clean up the room
  • prepare the group memo, distribute to members and others who need to know

Group roles

Different roles group members may play during a meeting:

  • facilitator/leader
  • timekeeper
  • note taker
  • expert
  • mediator
  • devil's advocate
  • presenter
  • progress chaser

Important tasks that should be performed by the facilitator of a meeting:

  • encouraging participation
  • summarizing input
  • discouraging domination
  • encouraging decision making
  • keeping group focused
  • making final decisions, if necessary
  • clarifying ideas
  • delegating roles and tasks
  • providing feedback
  • keeping the peace
  • energizing group members

Skills that students need to develop to promote effective group work:

  • active and tolerant listening
  • communication skills
  • flexibility
  • accountability
  • respect for others' contributions
  • helping others to master content
  • participation
  • giving and receiving constructive feedback
  • patience
  • managing disagreements
  • motivation
  • keeping deadlines

Activities and tools that can be used in a group meeting for:

Opening discussion

  • list available resources
  • state different perceptions of what the real problem
  • brainstorm ideas - all ideas are encouraged and accepted
  • legitimize - show an understanding of how others see the problem
  • kickstart with an example
  • propose some potential solutions
  • ask each individual for a possible solution

Narrowing down the solutions

  • evaluate solutions using some criteria
  • make sure solutions address the issues
  • rank ideas in order of priority
  • categorize solutions
  • separate solutions based on "pros/cons"
  • look for redundant and overlapping ideas
  • force field analysis (what ideas give support to solving the problem? which ones prevent reaching a solution?)

Closing the discussion

  • majority voting
  • consensus
  • build up/eliminate (add or subtract from different options to arrive at a new option that everyone can support)
  • combine ideas (avoid either/or decisions)

More Resources

teaching tipThis Creative Commons license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon our work non-commercially, as long as they credit us and indicate if changes were made. Use this citation format: Meeting Strategies for Group Work. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.