The term group discussion is used to refer to a situation in which a small number of persons meet face-to-face and, through free oral interaction among themselves exchange information or attempt to reach decision on shared problems. It is difficult to specify the number of participants that would make the group discussion useful. It has been found that the character of interaction undergoes a change when one or two persons are added to a dyadic communication situation. Similarly, if the number of persons in a group is ten or more some tend to avoid participation and remain just passive listeners. Thus, significance of group discussion is lost because in it each member is expected to participate actively.
Effective communication in a small group requires sensitivity to the dynamics of the group process. Each participant should give a fair chance to others to speak and express their opinion. If the group finds that a particular member is reticent, it is the duty of all others to elicit his opinion on the issue. If a member tries to dominate the discussion or to go on speaking continuously for a long time, it is the duty of others to curb his ebullience and to interrupt him politely so that others are also able to make their contributions. To keep the discussion on the track it may be worthwhile for a participant to summarise the points made till that time and them to present his viewpoint.
Very often group discussion is used in addition to written test/interview for employment. Obviously therefore a representative of the prospective employer sits through the group discussion and observers the group performance.
Sometimes a group discussion is also an instrument of education to develop and judge the student’s personality traits.
There are two ways of organizing a group discussion. One, the topic is announced beforehand and the participants are expected to have done their homework before coming to the discussion table. Two the topic is announced after the members have assembled and five to ten minutes are given to them for collecting their thoughts. In both cases, formality is avoided and the rules are kept to the minimum.