A volunteer takes the hot seat on a specific topic or issue. The facilitator gives them a card which shows the assigned role. The volunteer is then granted a short time to ‘get into the role’. After this short period (assigned by the facilitator), the group can start to ask questions. The volunteer must answer all questions, staying true to their assigned role. It may be useful to pretend that the volunteer in the hot seat is at a press conference, playing the part of an expert answering the questions of journalists. It is recommended that part of the group keeps minutes of the discussion, so that there is a final written piece of work (quality assurance!). The topic or issue is to be chosen freely. Especially on controversial issues and problems, those students who tend to be quiet or reserved can prove their knowledge: You can either take on the role of an expert or take the role of a questioning group member. Group participants can also get assigned specific roles or perspectives that the others do not know about. So they can ask questions without making their (supposedly) own personality or opinion public. At the content level, an issue may be considered from different perspectives (within the framework of a "press conference"). The group’s prevailing opinions are hidden. It is thus recommended that the method Hot Seat is used at the end of a thematic unit, when different aspects of a subject have been fully explored.
The Hot Seat can also be used to provide feedback. Here, Hot Seat participants each return to the seat, and are provided with feedback from the rest of the group. The host must ensure that the group gives constructive feedback, and that there are no personal attacks. Those on the Hot Seat must listen to the feedback without commenting on it. Group dynamics can also be shown here.
This method is often introduced when it comes to treating controversial topics, such as bullying, multiculturalism, or burnout. Participants may ask all kinds of questions, except questions asking for the reason (why?) because these lead immediately to justification.
Didactical Description of the Method
Under the guise of other people’s perspectives, quiet or reserved participants can prove their expertise on the topic. They can respond to questions without having to sacrifice their own opinion, a position that some may feel vulnerable in. Problems and issues can be examined from different perspectives and supported by arguments. Depending on the chosen environment (e.g. a "press conference", an expert’s talk) the argumentative or persuasive skills of the participants are trained. The method is used as a feedback session, so participants learn feedback giving, effective listening and accepting feedback.