This is a simple tool for equalizing participation in small group discussion and raising awareness of how much people speak. It's probably not original, but I can't recall seeing it before.
In a smallish group (ten people) in one of my courses, I prepared a set of chits -- small rectangular pieces of card stock (cut up index cards) -- and gave each participant five chits (including me).
The rule for our discussion process was simple, each time you speak you have to toss a chit into the pot. When you are all in (no more chits), you can't speak. When all the chits are finally in the pot, we can all take out five and continue the discussion.
I had worried that this might distract us from the substance of the conversation, but it didn't. We quickly got the hang of ante-ing up each time we spoke. Of course I found that I was the first to run out of chits -- each time I asked a question or offered direction, I had to throw in a chit.
The chits make the flow of conversation a bit more natural than a go around. You can speak up any time, as long as you have a chit.
It also made it easy for all to see who was holding back and encouraged them to speak up.
- Use playing cards.
- When you encounter a hotspot -- a disagreement or lively exchange -- have each person in the disagreement split the pot so their exchange can continue past the five chit limit.