Methods for Deepening the Conversation

Methods for Deepening the Conversation – 

(from Intergroup Dialogue in Higher Education (2007)

Debriefing structured activities and dialoguing about them are at the heart of the experiential learning process in intergroup dialogue.

This is of the most challenging aspects of facilitation because it requires close attention to various nuances of group life, including intergroup dynamics, participants’ emotional concerns and reactions, prior planning and in-the-moment thinking and feeling.

Two categories of questioning: debriefing learning activities and questioning methods are skills used throughout the 4-stage design.

Debriefing Learning Activities: Three phases: description, analogy/analysis, & application.

  • Description: Facilitators begin the debriefing by allowing participants to describe what happened to them. The facilitator might ask, “What happened during this activity? How did you feel participating in this activity? How did your thinking and feeling change during the course of the activity? What were your greatest frustrations or successes (satisfaction areas?)
  • Analogy/ Analysis This phase helps participants to tie the exercise to real-world situations. Possible processing questions:
    • What were some of the major issues that arose during this activity?
    • How do your experiences in this activity represent real-life situations?
    • What similar experiences have you had elsewhere?
    • How were experiences in the activity different from real-life situations?
    • What may be some reasons for that?
    • What does that mean?
    • How do other people see/hear/feel about that?
  • Applications
    • Participants consider and discuss what they have learned and the ways in which they plan to apply their learning to their own spheres of influence.

Questioning Methods

  • Helpful Tips
    • Sequence the questions from simple to more complex, person to institutional
    • Use open-ended questions to help participants think about and share their beliefs
    • Ask one question at a time
    • Use questions to help participants interact with each other
    • Balance different types of questions to deepen the dialogue

Different types of questions

  • Emotion-focused questions
    • How did you feel during this activity?
    • How are you feeling right now?
    • What impacted you the most?
  • Clarifying questions
    • Could you explain what you just said a little bit more?
  • Questions about assumptions
    • What are we assuming here?
    • What other assumptions could be made?
  • Linking questions
    • How does what we are discussing relate to what we discussed earlier?
    • How does what you are saying relate to what X just said?
  • Viewpoint and perspective questions
    • Can you help us understand the reasons for your opinion?
    • What is the basis for your observation?
    • How might/do others see this issue?
  • Closure questions
    • What have you heard today that made you think/hit home/touched you?
    • What is your takeaway from today’s session?


Source: Xuniga, X., Nagda, B.A., Chesler, M., Cytron-Walker, A (2007).Intergroup Dialogue in Higher Education: Meaningful Learning about Social Justice. ASHE Higher Education Report, Volume 32, Number 4