Group meetings that are reflective and generative

Meetings in person or by conference call, as short as 30 minutes or as long as an hour, can make space for reflection and be generative of new work, even without a conventional agenda.  The format to follow evolved first in a weekly writing support group, was adapted for monthly conference call meetings to continue interactions initiated in an annual workshop, and continue to be refined with a weekly group of students writing their final Masters papers.

1. Freewriting to: a. get present (clearing away distracting concerns form our busy lives), and b. begin to consider the topic of the day (if there is one, e.g., in the Masters course).

2. Check-in: Short account of news or progress in writing since previous meeting + concern or question about the topic of the day (again, if there is one).  (No responses during the check-in.  Instead, write down any thoughts you have or tips of topics for one-on-one conversations.)

3. Dialogue process, i.e., listening with structured turn taking, that builds on the check-in.  Through inquiry more than advocacy (or rehearsal of previously formulated ideas), including inquiry of one’s own thinking, themes usually emerge.

4.  A few minutes writing to gather thoughts that have emerged as they are meaningful for you.

5.  Closing go-around:  Something you plan to address/get done/think more about before we meet next.  (Having this aired in the group–having it witnessed–makes it more likely to happen.)

Feel free to adopt or adapt this, and to report back on variants that work for your group.


About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor teaches and directs programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He studies the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context as well as innovation in teaching, group process, and interdisciplinary collaboration (see He is especially interested in conversations with others who are, in diverse ways, "troubled by heterogeneity" (

3 Responses to Group meetings that are reflective and generative

  1. Pingback: An example of a generative, reflective meeting « Probe—Create Change—Reflect

  2. Pingback: New Social Media: From technologies to spaces for virtual and face-to-face interactions III « Probe—Create Change—Reflect

  3. Pingback: The Dialogue Process in a Large Group: A Proposal « Probe—Create Change—Reflect

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