Parallel Discussions about Decision-Making


This group discussion format can be used in a week that covers several big concepts, each of which can be discussed along a similar ("parallel") sequence of discussion questions.  The concepts in this particular class are: Wisdom of crowds, Heuristic decision-making, Groupthink, and Cooperation.

The steps are as follows:

-The instructor prepares a set of discussion questions for each concept, following a set structure. In this case, the structure is: "Under which conditions does this phenomenon occur? Describe some of the positive/negative consequences of this phenomenon. Do our political institutions successfully promote/discourage this phenomenon? Give examples. Suggest some institutional reforms." The actual questions for each topic are more specific than that (see below for the questions).

- The section splits into three or four groups, depending on size of section.

- Each group gets assigned one concept. They are given about 15 minutes to discuss the questions on the concept among themselves. The instructor tells them they will be asked to present the conclusions of their discussion to the class, and to end their presentation with a discussion question that they want to throw out to the class.

- The groups then take turns presenting their discussion conclusions to the class. The instructor gives them about 5-7 minutes to do this. The class then discusses the discussion question chosen by the group for a few minutes. (Typically, groups end by asking for help with one of the questions they received, but sometimes they think of their own discussion questions too.)

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