This is a structured discussion activity for exploring a topic by answering questions in three different set-ups: individually, in pairs and in teams.
Specify a set of questions for each round of conversation, ideally one to three questions per round. Prepare one slide or flipchart paper with the questions for each round.
- Introduce the process to participants:
Participants will discuss each topic in 3 steps, first through individual reflection, then discussion in pairs, then in groups.
Optional: After the group discussion step, groups report their findings back to the whole group.
- Introduce the first question. Project a slide with this question or write it on the flipchart. (You may include more than one question). Hand out pen and paper to each participant.
- Assign individual work. Ask participants to reflect individually on the question(s) and write down their answers. Give a time limit of 2-3 minutes.
- Assign working in pairs. Ask participants to formulate pairs and discuss their answers to the question(s). Announce a time limit of 3 to 5 minutes.
- Assign group work. After the time limit has expired, ask participants to form a group with another pair. Invite group members to share information from their previous paired discussions and to discuss the same question one more time. Announce a time limit of 5-7 minutes. Ask team members to use the flipchart (if available) for taking notes.
- Optional: You may ask the teams to prepare their findings on a flipchart in order to report it back to the whole group. Give 2 minutes to each group. Alternatively, you may organise a flipchart gallery from all the smaller groups’ flipcharts.
- It is recommended not to do more than 3 rounds of 1-2-4 conversations in order to avoid too much repetitive interaction
- If you have an odd number of participants, have one group of 3 people instead of a pair in the middle round.
- This activity enables participants to experience three different modes: individual, partnership, and team. At the end of the session, you can conduct a debriefing discussion to encourage participants to reflect on these experiences and gain some insight into and about their preferred working style.
Source: I've first met this facilitation technique as a participant at the train-the-trainer course of a youth-NGO (Board of European Students of Technology) many years ago.