This is an excellent training technique which is used to discuss a subject or topic in detail and help participants elaborate views and share ideas in smaller groups. During this exercise, the topic is broken down into several sub-topics (for discussion at each station). Participants are split into smaller groups and move from one station to another discussing each sub-topic independently.
When coming up with ideas for discussion points, a good rule to follow is that any separate part should not be dependent on the discussion results of other parts, they should remain independent of each other.
For example, the SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) of an issue are good sub-topics which allow for independent discussion.
Resources: Flipchart paper, markers and pens
Space required: Small/Medium. Indoors or outdoors.
Group size: 8 to 24 people (working in smaller sub-groups of 4-6 people).
Total time: 60-65 minutes
- 5 minutes to brief and set up
- Round 1 – 25 minutes
- Round 2 – 15 Minutes
- Round 3 – 10 Minutes
- 5-10 minutes to review and debrief
Station Discussions Setup
You should prepare several topics or questions linked to your training workshop or meeting before you begin. Write each topic on separate pieces of flipchart or large sized paper. Organise the room into four areas/stations (this may be more depending on the number of groups or discussion points you have) and arrange some chairs in each area. There will be one topic of discussion per station.
Station Discussions Training Instructions
Split your group into three or more smaller sub-groups groups. Introduce the exercise and explain that working in their groups they move between stations discussing the topic and writing down their ideas, thoughts and conclusions.
The exercise will consist of 3 rounds. Allocate each group a station to begin with.
Start the rounds and let the group begin discussing the topic at their allocated station. Using the markers provided, group members must write down their observations on the flipchart paper provided at the station.
Organise groups in the first round as follows:
- Group A will start at Station 1
- Group B will start at Station 2
- Group C will start at Station 3
Ask each group to discuss the topic and write down their conclusions on the flipchart paper. Groups are given 25 minutes for the first round. At the end of the round, ask them to proceed to the second round and their next station.
Organise groups in the second round as follows:
- Group A will move to Station 2
- Group B will move to Station 3
- Group C will move to Station 1
In the second round, give each group 15 minutes to reflect on the conclusions reached by the previous group and modify or add to the flipchart before moving on to the third and final round.
Organise groups in the third round as follows:
- Group A will finish at Station 3
- Group B will finish at Station 1
- Group C will finish at Station 2
For the final round, give the groups 10 minutes to either modify or add to the previous groups conclusions.
Once all rounds have been completed, ask all groups to return back to their original stations for a chance to review. Allow a couple of minutes for the groups to read through their flipchart paper and any new comments that have been added.
If you are working with larger groups (more than 24 people) then you should split the group in half and run the same session simultaneously. There will be 2 stations per sub-topic and you will end up with 2 different flipcharts per sub-topic.
For example: 36 people
Side 1 – 18 people (3 sub-teams of 6) and 3 stations
Side 2 – 18 people (3 sub-teams of 6) and 3 stations
At the end of the workshop, get participants to note the differences between the conclusions drawn from the two sides.
Tips and Guidance
To separate each group’s comments, provide each group with a different colour marker for writing down their conclusions.
Group A – Blue marker
Group B – Green marker
Group C – Red marker
The number of groups is dependent on the number of sub-topics for discussion. If you divide the topic into three parts, then there needs to be three stations. If you divide the topic into four parts, then you will need to have four stations.
Reviewing and debrief
When reviewing the exercise, it is important to summarise the key points and share the input of all the groups. Get participants to think about why they did the station discussion and what they can take away from it.
For ideas and information on how to review, check out the reviewing section of the site.
Suggested questions to ask?
What can we learn from the exercise?
Did you find anything difficult?
Did everyone have an opportunity to share their ideas and views?
What was the most frustrating part of the exercise?
Did anyone surprise you?
What will you take away from the exercise?