Creative Discussion using Plain Pair Groups

Creative Discussion – a key to insight and change


William Plain
Emeritus Professor, Nagoya University of Foreign Studies

Plain Pair Group Teaching (Plain PGT)
- for universities and schools
Plain Pair Group Discussion (Plain PGD)
- for decision making and staff development
- for informal or community creative discussion

A flash of insight is the spark of cosmic intelligence.
Small group sharing of insight can change the pattern of human intelligence.

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Student presentation

The cross-group pairs may take 15 to 30 minutes in a 75 or 90-minute class. When it is deemed appropriate to terminate this phase, the students are told to return to their groups and to present their section of the material. Again, indications as to what can be done during this phase should be given on the board. Some possibilities would include (ranging from minimal fluency to reasonable fluency or native speaker classes): reading the text aloud, helping the other group members towards an understanding of the text, presenting a summary of the main ideas, presenting one's own ideas about the text, and adding general information concerning the subject matter being covered.

Some students use translation as one means of presentation, though this technique tends to limit useful exchange of information and practice of the target language. Translation could perhaps be more useful in the period of preparation in pairs, especially if limited to those parts of the text which are more difficult to understand. If the class is actually a translation class, then obviously this approach to understanding is highly appropriate. In general, however, this is the one part of the class where students can easily be led to make their entire presentation in English only. The teacher will often be pleasantly surprised that this is possible, and actually happens! If the cross?]group preparation is set up as ‘preparing to present your text in English’, most students accept the challenge.

If the material is at an appropriate level for the class, or has been adequately presented by the teacher beforehand, the presentation of one’s section will normally be a period of quiet and concentrated interaction within the group and will often need a good 30 minutes to complete adequately. This presentation of material to the other group members leads each student to communicate freely and develop a sense of belonging with other members of his group.

Where a fairly free exchange of ideas is possible (and students are often far more capable than teachers give them credit for) the teacher will frequently find an animated discussion taking place which is difficult to stop. Even (language department) teaching colleagues, who may feel uncomfortable about using English in a ‘public’ meeting, will not hesitate to present ideas in English in the ‘privacy’ of a small group discussion. Again the same dynamic applies to the classroom. The student who will be loath to engage in a public interaction with the teacher will only too willingly launch into a complex discussion in the privacy of a group of fellow students he has come to know well.

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© William Plain  1990-2016 (print) 2005 - 2016 (website)