Small Group Discussion Success: How to Super Engage Participants

Today, I’m going to show you how I engage the most difficult of participants and lead them to empathize with a completely different perspective every time without fail.

The scary truth about small group discussions is that students often times don’t participate or think critically.

That doesn’t have to be the case.

I was able to use this method to lead discussions as a full-time student studying for my degree and as a part-time waiter working to pay the bills. 

If I could do it, I’m sure you can too. How was I able to? 

The Epiphany Question Method. Today I’m going to show you exactly how I do it, step-by-step.

100% Success! How You can use The Epiphany Question Method [Today]

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Before I tried The Epiphany Question Method I always struggled to get students and discussion participants to actually engage and think from different perspectives.

  • Teaching can be difficult; it takes a lot of planning, effort and energy to structure an engaging, fun and informative lesson for people to enjoy as well as learn. I have led many group discussions and classes on a range of topics in America, Europe, and now Asia over the past 12 years.

But after I figured out this strategy results were immediate. Students started clapping at the end of sessions. I could see it in their eyes that their perspectives were changing, they were having epiphanies.

Participants often continue conversations about ideas brought up during the 1 hour discussions, taking ideas home and bringing them up to friends and family.

People who might have been crouched in a certain position at the beginning of a session would sometimes end with a completely different opinion, or at the very least a deep understanding of the opposing opinion.

Now:

It’s time to break down the step-by-step process that I’ve used for the past 12 years to achieve these results.

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.

 

The 5-Steps to Using “The Epiphany Question Method” to Increase Critical Thinking and Engagement

There are 5 important steps to The Epiphany Question Method.

Step 1: A Trail of Questions

Step 2: Search for Dissonance

Step 3: Ask More Questions to Find a Path

Step 4: Ask The Epiphany Question

Step 5: Repeat

Why is this important?

This technique works so well is because your questions are all tailored to the assumptions and perspectives held by the participants at that very moment.

Therefore, once you learn this method you will not have to pre-prepare to increase engagement or critical thinking. You will have this method down pat and be able to use it in any circumstance you find yourself in without stressful planning or research.

The word epiphany comes from an ancient Greek word and describes the experience of a sudden and striking realization. It is like a breakthrough, a moment of enlightenment that lets you understand something in a new and deeper perspective. It is one of the most fundamental elements of excellent facilitation and is also at the core of Aristotle’s Cafe.

And the most important reason why it is called an Epiphany Question is because, it’s just that – people are much more likely to be persuaded by their own decisions and ideas. Therefore a question has more power to lead a person to see from another perspective – questions have limitless paths, while an answer only has one.

Now:

The Epiphany Question Method is just one of several strategies that I use to create successful discussions and train others to do the same. I reveal many others in my facilitation course – Aristotle’s Cafe – Small Group Discussion Facilitation.

 

Step 1: A Trail of Questions

All good discussions begin with a question.

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Let’s begin with – “What is Communication?”

(Remember encourage different opinions) “Does anyone agree or disagree, any other ideas?” (while they address the question and give their answers) The group might say a few things such as communication is talking, communication is art, communication is love, communication is music and so forth.

Think of The Epiphany Question Method as small trails. You allow the participants to follow their path that is laid by the small trails of ideas and thoughts they conjure up, while you respond with further relevant questions in regards to what they say, as you sit back and watch where they are going.

Now it’s time for step 2…

 

Step 2: Search for Dissonance

This is the truth about discussions:

You will often find that the majority of the group will agree with one line of thinking, and there will also be a minority thought as well.

While you listen to the answers given to each question, find something that stuck out to you, something that made you curious, angry, sad, something that caused you to feel strongly about an opinion. If you felt it someone else did too.

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This feeling of dissonance, or that something isn’t right is the most important skill you can have because it will help you ask more questions…

 

Step 3: Ask More Questions to Find a Path

After most people have shared their thoughts on the question “What is Communication?”

Based on the opinionated answers you heard, you might ask: “How does art communicate?” The group may respond to the question by saying a few things, for example, something like “Art does not communicate, art is about expression, expression communicates, colors show feelings, art shows the truth of the person.”

Again, you should find something that stuck out to you. You will keep asking and listening, and there will be a path of thinking that develops, and you will notice that there will be disagreements, as well as something that most people are overlooking or not thinking of.

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In this example, everyone is assuming that many things in life can communicate, that communication is ubiquitous. And so after following this path and allowing the discussion to take place, you bring in the Epiphany Question…

 

Step 4: Ask The Epiphany Question

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You might ask three questions or ten questions, but you must let the students pave their own paths that will collectively result in one shared road of wonders. Then, when you see the chance, you ask an Epiphany Question that changes the line of thinking and the path direction in a powerful way.

Here is an example of a series of questions that are all part of an Epiphany Question. To do this, you must try to ask a short and strong question to turn the assumption on its head. For example, in this case, it might be: “Can we ever communicate?” or “Can we ever truly communicate?” “What does it mean to communicate?”

These questions are compelling. They are thought-provoking and elicit a strong engage in critical thinking from the participants or students receiving the question.

It makes them question their own assumptions, previously they were only considering that what communicates best – they didn’t open the possibility that communication can fail. They will then have to think and come up with an opinion based on what they just spoke about. In this case they sometimes change opinions or grab onto what someone else said as it might be relevant to solving this new dilemma…

 

Step 5: Repeat

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The power of The Epiphany Question Method is that it runs on an endless cycle for the duration of your discussion.

It encourages people to change their way of thinking themselves by introducing a question that inspires, rather than have someone else tell them how to change or what the correct way is to think.

It also approaches critical thinking in a more subtle way as it incentivizes thought-provoking answers by use of gradually proposing of thought-provoking wonders, which in return, provides a more valuable lesson for students and participants to obtain knowledge. The reason being is found in its core principal, the principle of experiential learning. Through this process participants have the chance to see a wide array of the spectrum.

Now You Try It

That’s how you can use The Epiphany Question Method to increase critical thinking and engagement.

Unlike other methods where you have hours of pre-planning and preparation – you only need to follow the 5 steps for success.

Ready to try it?

I would love to hear if you’ve found success when using it!

If you’ve found some value from my post I’d love a Facebook Like.

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