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  • Writer's pictureMeghan Manfra

Reflect: Using the nominal group technique



The nominal group technique was developed by Delbecq and Van de Ven in 1968 and continues to be an effective method for generating solutions to issues or problems from a wide group of people and then prioritizing the top ideas. This technique tends to work best with groups of 10 or less people. There is the option to break larger groups into breakout groups to complete the steps.


Suggested steps to follow:


  1. Pose the issue or question to the group. This step may include framing the issue and providing background information.

  2. Ask participants to silently jot down ideas.

  3. Solicit round robin feedback from the whole group and record all ideas on chart paper or group document. During this step there is no discussion or editorializing. The recorder should note when ideas are repeated with tally marks.

  4. Provide participants with an opportunity to review the list.

  5. Engage in whole group discussion about each item in the list. During this stage, participants can ask for clarification and expand on ideas.

  6. Either as a group identify 5 priority ideas or ask participants to anonymously vote and report their top 5. While this approach is mainly qualitative, here you use quantitative techniques to clarify key concerns.

  7. Report the vote to the whole group and/or engage in additional discussion and re-voting.


I used this technique when working as an evaluator with a small group of stakeholders from a local school district. Before designing a program evaluation plan for them, I used the nominal group technique to clarify the main concerns the group had and their priorities for the evaluation plan.


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