by John Goldberg and Jerry Bach
Using verbal and nonverbal feedback from a group to help facilitators decide how to proceed in group sessions.
- To identify the types of participant behaviors that facilitators often notice in group sessions.
- To discuss how facilitators interpret participant behavior as feedback.
- To practice methods for responding effectively to feedback from group participants.
16 to 40
- A copy of the Signs and Signals handout for each participant.
- A flip chart and a felt-tipped marker for recording.
- Masking tape for posting flip chart sheets.
A room large enough for the groups to work without disturbing one another. Writing surfaces should be provided. Wall space is required for posting flip chart sheets.
1. Introduce the session by explaining that feedback from participants in a group can be described as different types of traffic signals and signs. Just as a police officer directs traffic with safety and traffic flow in mind, a facilitator needs to direct the interaction of participants to ensure that the group works together to meet common goals. And, just as no one has an absolute right of way on the road, participants in a group may need to be directed to engage in behaviors they might not otherwise exhibit.
2. Distribute a copy of the Signs and Signals handout to each participant. Read the descriptions aloud while they follow along.
3. Divide participants into eight groups. Make sure that each group selects a unique sign or signal so that all of them are discussed by one group.
4. Ask each group to discuss behaviors a facilitator might notice in participants that the facilitator would most likely interpret as feedback related to their chosen sign or signal. Allow approximately 5 minutes for the task, giving the participants a one-minute warning before calling time.
6. Ask each group to brainstorm a list of interventions that a facilitator could use to respond to feedback related to the group’s chosen sign or signal. Allow approximately 5 minutes for the task, giving the participants a one-minute warning before calling time.
6. Reconvene the whole group. Ask small groups to report about the perceived feedback related to their sign or signal. Allow approximately 10 minutes for the task.
7. Ask groups to report about the interventions a facilitator could use to respond to the feedback they discussed. Allow approximately 10 minutes for the task.
8. Direct the participants to form groups of eight persons each. Ask the group members to choose a facilitator in each group.
9. Explain that the members of each group will role play a meeting in which each of them will represent one of the types of feedback discussed above. The facilitator’s task is to respond effectively to the feedback that comes from the group. Allow approximately 20 minutes for the task, giving the participants a 2-minute warning before calling time.
10. Ask each group to discuss the feelings they experienced during the role play. Allow approximately five minutes for the task, giving the participants a one-minute warning before calling time.
11. When all groups have finished reporting, ask the following questions, using flip chart sheets to record significant issues and posting the sheets as necessary:
- What behaviors were interpreted as which kinds of feedback in your group?
- What did the facilitator do to respond to the different kinds of feedback?
- To what extent were the facilitator’s interventions helpful in responding to the feedback?
- What else could the facilitator have done to respond effectively to the feedback?
- In what ways might you have misinterpreted the behaviors of participants?
- How can you use what you learned today that you can use in the future?
Present a slide show or display a poster with the list of signs and signals rather than providing a handout.
Show a video of a police officer directing traffic. An example is the Shanghai Traffic Police at the following web site: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Oq5uwollp0
Show a video of a police officer directing traffic when things go bad. An example is the Traffic Officer hit by a truck at the following site: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7eiqmQZnH8
About the Authors
John Goldberg provides training in leadership, communication, teamwork, and career and personal development. He served for seven years as Manager, Organization Development for a Fortune 500 company. John teaches at the University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management. He is active in the California Network of Learning Professionals. John lives in Sacramento with his wife and two children.
Contact: John Goldberg, MBA, Address: 442 T Street, Sacramento, CA 95818-2122. Telephone: (916) 444-3353, Email: email@example.com. Website: JohnGoldberg.com
Jerry Bach is the Senior Vice President of Workplace Safety programs for Safety Center. With over 25 years of experience providing training in both the private and public sectors in defensive driving, traffic control, mobile equipment and general safety training, Jerry has been involved with the development of training programs for Cal OSHA staff statewide as well as the customization of training programs for numerous employers in the western United States. He is a Defensive Driving Course (DDC) Master Trainer and a member of the DDC International Advisory Committee for the National Safety Council and the American Society of Safety Engineers.
Contact: Jerry Bach, CHSM, Address: 3909 Bradshaw Road, Sacramento, CA 95827. Telephone: (916) 438-3363. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Signs and Signals
The following signs and signals are metaphors for feedback facilitators may receive from participants in group sessions.
Do Not Enter: It is forbidden to enter this area.
Green Light: Go ahead.
No U Turn: Do not go back to where you were before.
Red Light: Stop until you get a green light.
Stop: Make a complete stop. NOTE: This sign has been known to have alternative meanings, including the following:
- Spin Tires on Pavement
- Slightly Touch other Pedal
- Slow to Observe Police
- Save the Old People
- Stop Talking on Phone
- Stop Texting on Phone
Wrong Way: Turn around or back out.
Yellow Light: Stop if it is safe to do so.
Yield: Slow down and be ready to stop. Let another person go ahead, if necessary.