Tips for IS Discussion Groups

Tips for Discussion Group Conveners

Congratulations on being selected as a convener for an ACRL Instruction Section discussion forum for the ALA conference. We hope that you will enjoy exploring your issue with colleagues and that everyone who participates will benefit.

You will be assigned a member of the IS Discussion Group Steering Committee as a contact person. Please don't hesitate to get in touch with that person or a co-chair of the Steering Committee with any questions or problems.

Expectations for Conveners

1. Draft an initial two-page to three-page, double spaced Current Issue Digest to be posted to ILI-L at least two weeks before the conference and distributed to attendees at the discussion itself. Note that the digest needs to be submitted to the Committee for approval before posting. Allow at least a week for that. The digest should follow the format described below. You will note that most of the information going into this initial digest is the same information that was to be included in the proposal.

  • Title of Discussion
  • Date, Time, Location of Discussion
  • Names of Conveners
  • Clear description of the discussion topic's issue.
  • Rationale for convening a discussion on this topic now.
  • Importance of the topic for academic librarians.
  • Some of the questions that will form the basis for the discussion.
  • Very short recommended reading list to prepare attendees for the discussion. Try to include links or DOIs whenever possible and at least something that will be accessible to everyone.

2. Facilitate a "Current Issue Discussion Group" at the ALA Conference.

  • Bring at least 100 copies of your Digest as handouts. (You will be reimbursed for copying costs if you have a receipt.)
  • Rooms for discussion groups will have round tables seating 8-10 people each. This facilitates, but does not require you to include small group discussions.
  • We can make available to you: 2 microphones, 5 flip charts, 1 lcd projector and 1 screen appropriate for the size of room. Please note that a projector and screen will only be made available if the discussion would not be possible without their use and it is clear that the use of technology will not compromise the discussion format. The need for the use of technology will need to be discussed with the DGSC representative and will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

As the convener, you will determine the design of the discussion forum that you prefer. For example, you may want to plan for one large group brainstorming, small group discussions focused on the same questions, small group discussions focused on different questions, etc. (Note: Please see additional information regarding different formats for discussions.) Whatever the format you choose for the discussion, we believe these additional tips will be helpful for running the discussion:

  • Share ground rules for the discussion to ensure the group stays focused on the topic, encourages participation from many people, and everyone understands how the discussion forum is designed.
  • Use the introduction period to briefly frame the issues.
  • Have a few questions prepared to start the discussion.
  • Give people time to think about the question and respond. Count to ten slowly before intervening or rephrasing the question.
  • To generate discussion from someone's comments, try rephrasing as a question, for example: “What experiences has anyone else had with (X topic or concept)?”
  • Use the whole group to contribute to answers to questions. The conveners and facilitators are not intended to be the only experts.
  • If someone is dominating the discussion, ask if there are other points to be made from the rest of the group. It's all right to say that you'd like to hear from others if that person jumps in again.
  • Summarize frequently and keep the group focused on the discussion forum topic.
  • Limit your use of technology to quickly make a point or give an example, illustrate or clarify something, or introduce an idea.
  • Ensure that someone is keeping track of the time for various segments of the discussion forum. Let the group know when the discussion is reaching the end of its time limit.
  • Use the final five minutes to summarize points from the discussion, thank the participants, and let them know that a final digest of the discussion will be posted on the IS web site.
  • Practice your discussion beforehand. Make sure you have enough time to cover everything you want to cover, leaving enough time for discussion.
  • Have fun! This is a topic you're interested in and the people who attend are there to discuss -- you're not responsible for carrying the whole weight of the discussion.
  • Members of the Discussion Group Steering Committee can assist with taking notes and recording ideas, or you may want to ask attendees to help. If you need facilitators for the discussion, you are responsible for recruiting a sufficient number.

3. Revise and submit a final Current Issue Digest to be posted on the IS web site within one month of the discussion.

  • This final version should add a summary of what was learned from the discussion.
  • This is an opportunity to add additional readings, websites, etc., perhaps suggested during the discussion.
  • You will need to submit the revised Digest to the co-chairs of the Discussion Group Steering Committee for approval before it will be posted.

Throughout the process, it is important to maintain communication with your liaison from the Discussion Group Steering Committee.


Discussion Group Steering Committee Home Page

Instruction Section Home Page

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