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Leading Informal Small Group Values Discussions

There are a number of ways to achieve the objective of leading informal small group discussions. At Old Kia Kima we identified four types based on the role of the leader of the discussion; they were Peer Initiated, Mentor Led, Facilitator Led, and Teacher Led.

Peer Initiated Small Group Values Discussions were perhaps the most common of the four types. Typically, in the Old Kia Kima example, the size of this group was 4 to 6 people, usually cabin mates and/or cohorts on overnight canoe or hiking trips with a range of previously establish or newly established friendship patterns.

Of course, it should be explained here that there was a selection process that went on prior to camp attendance that enhanced the “good peer influence factor” of the pool of potential candidates. There were involved parents and dedicated adult leaders who saw the value of camp attendance as a learning and maturation experience, and thus made it possible for them to be there. The emergence of friendship patterns (“Birds of a feather with similar interests”) also shaped the small group makeup.

Finally yet importantly, is the fact that the participants were Achievement oriented Boy Scouts in various leadership roles (a strong influence in and of itself). In many cases there were camp Staff members who had been selected for their jobs in recognition of the good influence they would have on others, including their skills, abilities, and values. When you put any number of these high achievers together, the results were informal small group discussions that inevitably involved excellent peer influence on the topics of goals, ambitions, achievement of skills and abilities, and expressions of the underlying values that supported these topics.

Similar influences were in the background affecting the other types of Small group discussions; Mentor Led, Facilitator Led, and Teacher Led Small Group Discussions. The only differences were that common peer groups often selected the same Mentors to “talk” with them on various topics that were later shared with all members of the group; whereas the Facilitator led discussions and Teacher led discussions had leaders in appointed roles. Of the latter two, Teacher (Staff) led small group discussions were part of the formal camp program designed to impart skills, and by default the related underlying values. Though quite effective, Facilitator led small group discussions were utilized, though somewhat less common. This was because it was less frequent that the small group teacher would model this discussion leader’s style and withhold injecting any values relevant comments (frequently the “point” of the discussion). Discussions with Values related content were the usual case in our experience with a "teacher" style of discussion leader.