Examples for group decision-making

When covering group decision-making and the group presentation assignment, I like to stick with this simple six-step process that a group should go through. It is one of many variations of the reflective-thinking method:

  1. Identify or narrow down problem
  2. Do research
  3. Select criteria — what will a good decision look like?
  4. Propose possible solutions
  5. Evaluate possible solutions by comparing to criteria
  6. Choose a solution — by vote, authority or consensus

Often my students struggled with step 3 — the criteria. I used a number of examples to help demonstrate what the criteria are and how they help:

  1. Imagine I have been given a university grant to throw an end-of-semester party for our class. I tell you to get everything planned and just tell me when to show up. Are you going to have any questions for me? The students are quick to answer with — how much money to we have? This is an example of the need for criteria — to identify the things that will shape your ultimate solution. The criteria have to be agreed on early in the process for the group to work effectively.
  2. If you are planning to get pizza with friends, what are things you would consider in choosing your pizza place? How about GOOD, FAST and CHEAP? What if you do not have a pizza place available that does all three of these things but need to decide which two were most important to you? Would it make a difference in your ultimate decision?
  3. Let’s look at the issue of making college campuses safer in light of campus violence incidents like we saw at Virginia Tech. What if our campus decided to improve security by adding cameras all over campus — to classrooms, hallways, parking lots, elevators and dorm rooms — and to put key card scanners on every door on campus and if you lose your card it will take five days to replace? Would you see any problems with these plans? Often students are quick to respond with privacy, convenience, and expense as potential problems. So then rewrite those things into criteria — so a good campus security system must 1. respect privacy, 2. not disrupt campus activities, and 3. not be overly expensive. This helps make the point that is only AFTER you have selected your criteria that you can start to make good decisions and find solutions.

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About teachingpublicspeaking

I believe public speaking can go from most dreaded class to favorite class. I'm a former public speaking college instructor who spent years seeking out activities, assignments and examples to make the class interactive as well as educational -- they are collected here. I welcome suggestions for additions.

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