Group discussions are used by effective trainers to promote exchanging of ideas and active learning. One way to facilitate a group discussion is known as the Gallery Exercise.
In the gallery group discussion exercise, participants work in smaller groups and discuss issues related to a certain topic or subject. The room is organised into separate areas with a different topic or subject to be discussed at each area.
Each area has some chairs and a table with a big board with a sheet of flipchart paper attached (aka, the ‘gallery’). Each group is allocated an area to begin, they then discuss the topic (this can be a question, an issue or a general theme linked to your training outcomes) and write down their conclusions on the flipchart paper before moving on to the other tables.
At the end of the exercise, groups present the information back and participants are given some time to tour the galleries to see what the other groups have contributed.
Tables and chairs, flip chart paper, marker pens and topic cards
Medium. Training room or classroom
9-24 people (aim for between 3-6 people per sub-group)
- 5 minutes to brief and set up
- 4 x 10 minutes working at each gallery (depending on the number of participants).
- 15 minutes for presentations (prepare and deliver)
- 5 minutes to tour the galleries
- 5-10 minutes to review and debrief
Gallery Group Discussion Setup
Before your workshop, you should prepare a topic or question to be discussed at each gallery. This should be linked to your workshop and your training outcomes.
Here is an example for a risk management workshop
- What is a risk?
- How do we overcome risk?
- Why is this important to me?
You can either write the topic on large sized paper or print these prior to the workshop. It might also be useful to laminate so you can use these again in future workshops.
Organise the room into four areas (this may be more or less depending on the number of galleries you have). Setup each area with a table, some chairs, a flipchart stand (or any board) and attach a blank piece of flipchart paper.
Gallery Group Discussion Instructions
Divide participants into 3 – 4 groups (no more than 6 per group). Select a person from each group to document the groups discussion and conclusions on the flipchart paper. Give each group a different colour pen to help separate their contribution to each flipchart.
Begin the exercise and give each group ten minutes per gallery to discuss the topic. Towards the end of the ten minutes, the nominated scribe should begin writing down the main points discussed.
Next, move each group on to next gallery and have them discuss the new topic and add their contribution. Continue this for each subsequent gallery.
Once all groups have contributed to each flipchart, get them to return to where they started and allow time to review and discuss the contributions added by the other groups.
Each group will now present their gallery piece and their findings to the other groups.
At the end of the presentations, allow participants five minutes to walk around and look at the galleries on show.
Tips and Guidance
The total number of galleries required is typically based on the number of groups you have. I try and aim for no more than six people per group – any more than this and group members will find it hard to share their ideas or opinions on the subject.
For example, if you have 4 groups, you’ll have 4 galleries. Note that if you have too many groups, the exercise can become quite time consuming.
If you are working with a large group and have no choice but to increase the number of groups, then you have three choices, you can:
- Split the group in half and run the activity as two separate groups at the same time. This can be quite interesting when reviewing as you can compare the two groups conclusions during the presentations.
- Decrease the time allowance at each gallery to just 5 minutes.
- Or run this activity as normal but all groups won’t contribute to the galleries. The key points will still be summarised during the final presentations.
Review and debrief
For some reviewing ideas and instructions on how to review, make sure you check out the reviewing section of the site.
Here are a few suggested questions to ask:
Why did we do that exercise?
Were you given an opportunity to contribute?
What surprised you the most?
Do you feel each topic was adequately explored?
Did you find anything frustrating?
What did you enjoy the most?
What can you take away from the exercise? How can you use this knowledge?