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About this book

The only book providing advice on facilitating workshops aimed specifically at lecturers and academics. Full of practical resources and materials including suggested activities, handouts and whiteboard layouts to help people tasked with running workshops in higher education settings or at conferences, even without having received specific training.

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Book

Introduction to the Book

Abstract
When the idea for this book first emerged during one of our official meetings (read: coffee breaks), we thought it would be, if not easy to write, then certainly straightforward. Surely with our combined experience working and teaching in different countries we knew what there was to say about facilitating workshops? Of course, as so often happens, the more we thought and wrote about the topic, the more we realised we had much to learn ourselves. Especially once we started probing our colleagues, participants and random members of the public for their experiences, we humbly revised our original expectation. The range of learning and teaching contexts, materials, customs and activities used in different countries and industries is very broad indeed.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Common Questions and Workshop Concerns

Abstract
In this first section we list a number of complaints we have heard about workshops. Following each complaint we indicate the section of the book where this concern is addressed. You can use this list as an alternative to the index or table of contents.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Learning in Workshops

Frontmatter

Why Workshops?

Abstract
A number of reasons have been put forward for choosing a workshop over a lecture or a series of readings as a form of professional development. The case for using workshops as a way of giving new knowledge skills and attitudes has been summarised by Richards and Farrell (2005) in relation to one group of professionals: language teachers. Since most of the points they make can apply to workshops in general, we now use their points as headings.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

A Brief History of Workshops

Abstract
To most people, the word ‘workshop’ conjures up an image of a session where participants do as much work as the presenter. Interestingly enough, current definitions often focus more on the content and the purpose than on details of the process. For Richards and Farrell (2005: 23), ‘A workshop is an intensive, short-term learning activity that is designed to provide an opportunity to acquire specific knowledge and skills.’
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Principles of Adult Learning

Abstract
Underpinning all the preparation that goes into workshops are general principles of learning. Because this book concerns working with adults, we do not include the general literature on learning that includes children’s education. Instead we focus on the way adults learn and, flowing from that, the way people teach when their ‘audience’ is made up of adults. Of course, the word ‘audience’ is not well chosen when our topic is workshops. Even more than in regular classrooms, the emphasis when preparing workshops is to build on the way people learn. The ‘teaching’ is probably better referred to as ‘facilitating learning’.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Adults as Social Learners

Abstract
The social aspect of learning is an important contributor to success or failure in education and has received a lot of attention, especially in recent years, to the point where there is now talk of a ‘social turn’ (Block, 2003). This refers to a recognition of the fact that learners are not simply individual processors of information but instead are human beings, who bring previous experiences, feelings and motivations to the classroom. People are members of numerous social networks and these affect many aspects of their learning, from what they consider worthy of learning in the first place, to the support they get while learning. As a result, education now places much more emphasis on the social aspect of learning and the ways learners can learn with and from each other. Workshops are ideally suited for social learning, with their emphasis on learning by doing, and learning in pairs and groups. Below we look at some aspects of social learning that workshops can support.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Adults as Experiential Learners

Abstract
While most people in the twenty-first century would agree that children learn through experiences, not everyone takes into account the role that experience plays in adult learning. If there was no need to experience new topics, then attending workshops would lose its point. Why not simply read a book or listen to a recorded talk on the topic of choice? Before we move to the applications of experiential learning for workshop presenters, we look at what is known of the role of experience in learning.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

The Experience of Learning in Workshops

Abstract
So far we have talked about principles of adult learning, addressing these questions:
  • What do we know about the different ways people learn?
  • How can learners be motivated?
  • What place does affect play in the learning process?
  • To what extent can adult learners be autonomous?
  • What is the effect of learning with others?
  • How far can people be enabled to experience new ideas?
We now turn more specifically to the way adults actually experience learning when they are in workshops. We draw on a mixture of theory, as summarised above, and examples as they apply to learning in workshops rather than in traditional classrooms.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Teaching in Workshops

Frontmatter

The Experience of Delivering Workshops

Abstract
For many, even highly qualified teachers, delivering workshops is a new and demanding experience. Especially initially, the experience can be fraught with challenges, but most presenters find that, over time, workshops become one of their favourite staff development activities. Below are the experiences of some workshop presenters, some positive, some less so, starting with a reflection from a teacher with many years of experience:
‘During my professional life I’ve had the chance to teach classes, give lectures and run workshops. In my opinion, here’s why workshops are the most satisfying experience of the three from the viewpoint of the person in charge.’
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Planning and Organising Workshops

Abstract
In this section we pose, and suggest answers to, five questions which have helped workshop presenters in their planning. In summary, these relate to:
  • Goal setting
  • Time options
  • Balancing input from you and activity by attenders
  • Balancing serious and relaxed activity types
  • The difference between activities for different times.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Workshop Contexts

Abstract
In most workshops people have something in common. The link may be professional, or it may be the wish to learn the same new skill or to volunteer for the same role. Here are some specific groups who may come to your workshop.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Setting Goals

Abstract
Curriculum and course designers usually start with one of three areas of learning:
  • The content that needs to be covered (or: a focus on input)
  • The activities that will be used (the process)
  • The intended outcomes (the product).
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Categorising and Selecting Activities

Abstract
The activities are at the heart of any workshop and can sometimes give more idea of the content than the actual title, as in one example of a workshop aimed at schoolgirls from 11 to 17 years of age. The title is ‘Self Awareness’ and the list of activities is a mixture of the factual and the affective, with ‘fun’ mentioned more than once. The attention of would-be attenders might be caught by the dramatic title and the four pictures, but what could lead them to go or, more likely, to persuade their parents to pay for them to go, is probably the activities, which are broadly described as ‘hands-on’.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Workshop Activities

Abstract
An ice breaker is any short activity held at the start of the workshop. Its purpose is to lower any affective barriers that may exist within a particular group. The rationale is that when people share something about themselves, and when they hear about others, they are more likely to have a positive attitude towards the group, the workshop and the presenter, and to want to work together. Although this is what the research tells us, many participants (and presenters) have divided opinions on ice breaker activities, perhaps as a result of some presenters taking such activities a bit too seriously and dedicating considerable amounts of time to them. Here are some general considerations:
  • Firstly, the time spent on an ice breaker activity should be in proportion to the length of the workshop. A two-hour workshop may not need an ice breaker activity at all. A week-long retreat style workshop may dedicate two hours to one.
  • Although the purpose is to ‘break through’ participants’ reluctance to open themselves up to the group, this should not be done at all costs. Some participants simply take some time to feel comfortable in a group.
  • Choice of activities should consider the age and background of the participants. Silly games may work with teenagers but may not be suitable for older participants.
  • Be careful with activities that require participants to touch one another. This may not be acceptable in all cultures or even age groups.
  • Although many ice breakers involve participants sharing something personal, be careful about the level and type of information you ask them to share. A safer option is to ask participants to share something about their opinion on a professional topic, rather than a highly personal one, or about a fictitious situation or other person (such as ‘What should colleague X do in this situation?’).
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Sequencing Content and Activities

Abstract
Perhaps even more so than with regular presentations or lectures, the order in which you move through your workshop will have a major impact on its success. The main reason is that participants need not only to understand a particular topic but also to be able to apply it. As many skills rely on having acquired other skills, it is important to get the order right, as otherwise participants will not be able to complete some of your tasks. Some ground rules are to:
  • move from simple to more complex tasks
  • move from tasks that require the display of knowledge to those that require analysis (see the section on ‘Categorising and selecting activities’, p. 82)
  • mix intensive with more ‘relaxed’ tasks
  • mix individual, with pair and group work
  • include enough breaks, especially between intensive activities.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Feedback and Assessment

Abstract
One part of the learning process is to receive feedback on one’s effort. Throughout this book we suggest that active participation is important, and one part of any activity, or attempt to do something new, is to be given feedback on one’s efforts.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Delivering Workshops Online

Abstract
Online classes come with their own challenges and opportunities, and, even more than classes, workshops require some special preparation. It may seem counter-intuitive to offer an activity online that relies so heavily on participant interaction and direct contact between presenter and participant, but online workshops can be a good alternative where face-to-face interaction is not possible. And online delivery is made easier with the right programs that allow for interaction and collaboration. Technology moves fast. As we’ll show in this section, it is now possible to have something closely approaching face-to-face interaction.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Professional Development for Facilitators

Abstract
Although for most forms of teaching it is taken for granted that people are trained before starting, and then provided with ongoing professional development, this seems not always to be the case for those who lead workshops. Yet leading a workshop is very different from teaching a regular class and from giving talks in various places. Just as teachers can belong to a ‘community of practice’, so can workshop presenters. A number of options are open for workshop presenters to develop their skills and we will discuss this below.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

The Practice of Facilitating Workshops

Frontmatter

The ‘When’ of Workshops

Abstract
‘The last time I offered a workshop it was on a Friday afternoon. The feed-back from the participants was that they were too tired and would have preferred it on another day. This time I gave the workshop on a Monday but now participants said they were too worried about all the week’s tasks ahead. Is there a right time for workshops?’
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Timing Issues

Abstract
Related to the issue of time is how long a workshop should be, or how short it can be. Of course, the key points of a workshop can be put on a handout and participants could read this themselves, but as we hope to have shown, the added value of workshops comes from the opportunities for interaction and gaining practical experience. Some organisers forget this important point and do not allocate enough time. If you feel this is the case, talk about it and perhaps share a brief outline of the activities (not just the content) you aim to complete with the participants, and the various (types of) learning outcomes (see the section on ‘Writing goals, objectives and learning outcomes’, p. 80) you are aiming for. The opposite can happen too. One of us was once asked to change a 2-hour workshop into a full-day event, supposedly because one of the other speakers cancelled. The workshop schedule was changed, with the morning dedicated to input and controlled practice, and the afternoon was used to have participants work in small groups based on their shared interests, with the facilitator walking around and giving feedback.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Participant Issues

Abstract
A number of questions are raised by experienced workshops facilitators, and many of these start with questions about the audience.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Organisational Issues

Abstract
‘My problem is timing the breaks during the workshops. Sometimes the coordinator tells me ahead of time that we must have breaks at such and such a time because that’s when the catering staff prepare food and drinks. When the time comes, at that very moment we could be in the middle of an activity. How do I handle that?’
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Technical Issues

Abstract
In answer to the question above, technology is only a tool. In certain situations it can help make good teaching better, but it cannot make bad teaching good. Broadly speaking, technology can help with the creation or the delivery of workshops and can be used for their organisation or pedagogical benefits. Below is a summary from Reinders and White (2010) of the main potential advantages of using technology for teaching.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Space Issues

Abstract
Although we do not always have the luxury of choice, ideally workshops are held in spaces that have the following qualities:
  • Well-ventilated and not too hot. Stuffy air will quickly tire the most enthusiastic of participants. If ventilation is not sufficient, open windows and a door to create an airflow. Ventilators, although noisy, can be helpful in hot situations. Slightly cooler is better than too warm.
  • Bright. Where insufficient daylight is available (or the sun is too strong), good lighting is essential and has been shown to directly affect participants’ concentration levels.
  • Spacious. Unlike in regular classrooms, in workshops participants are likely to walk around a lot, to sit in groups and to work on posters or with other materials. Insufficient space will have a direct impact on the success of the workshop. Don’t forget that you will also need additional space for yourself, to be able to easily move from one group to the next.
  • Ideally, you have access to breakout rooms so that different groups can work independently.
  • Flexible. Ideally the furniture needs to be movable. This is the most common problem with spaces for workshops where desks are fixed in long rows. Ideally, desks should be light and easily moved and put together with other desks to create new configurations.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Cultural Issues

Abstract
Workshop presenters who are working in a culture other than their own would expect to have to consider cultural issues when planning and conducting their sessions. However, many workshops in every country would today be likely to include people from a range of cultural backgrounds.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Presenter Issues

Abstract
Stage fright affects the majority of workshop presenters at some point. The impostor syndrome (Clance, 1985) is the well-documented phenomenon whereby even highly experienced professionals feel they are somehow cheating the audience, that they know less than they actually do, and fear being ‘found out’. On the one hand, workshops are more intimidating than, for example, lectures, in the sense that you are working more closely with people and there is less opportunity to shut yourself off or create distance from the participants. On the other hand, this also makes workshops potentially a more participatory and friendly environment. Everyone has the chance to contribute and there is less time for participants to scrutinise the presenter. Also, some presenters actually consider they have a more natural role as they communicate with small groups and individuals in a way they can’t when standing at the front. How do organisers deal with stage fright?
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Content Issues

Abstract
With workshops there is a clear interplay between subject matter (e.g. knowledge of guidelines for health workers on handling needles) and activities to test or practise that knowledge. You will therefore need to consider sources for both, including those that you will use for the workshop itself and those that you will give to your participants to engage with before and after the workshop.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Dealing with Organisers

Abstract
It is important to realise that often the requested topic is not fixed, but merely a suggestion. More often than not, the organisers will not fully know all the different aspects of the field that could be covered. Feel free to offer additional or alternative topics, perhaps showing how these relate to or flow from the originally requested subject.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Promoting Workshops

Abstract
The amount and type of promotion you do for your workshop depends primarily on who organises it. If a company or school has invited you to give a workshop at their premises, it is likely that they will take care of advertising it. Especially if the workshop is intended for, or even limited to, employees of the organisation itself, there will be little scope or need for further promotion. That does not mean you cannot use the event to bolster your own CV or, for example, tweet about it, as long as you make it clear the workshop is not open to the wider public. In fact the safest way to do this when the event is closed entry is after the event. One point to be careful of is to check that the organisers, or the office responsible for promoting your workshop, are accurate in their description of the event. One of us has had several experiences with participants being promised unreasonable outcomes for the type and duration of the event, possibly in an effort to increase attendance.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Evaluating Workshops

Abstract
The move to answerability by speakers, teachers, presenters and others who speak as ‘experts’ has led to the development of various options for evaluating courses, and in our case workshops.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis

Giving Workshops to Colleagues

Abstract
Giving workshops to colleagues can be a daunting prospect for many, especially if some of the colleagues are your seniors or friends, but in actual fact the workshop format is ideal in this context. As workshops are more collaborative than, for example, a regular presentation, you can draw on everyone’s experiences and strengths. Specifically:
  • Start by inviting people’s opinions and ideas on the subject.
  • Identify questions that people have or areas that are unclear.
  • Share ideas and suggestions, including your own.
  • Guide the group towards a shared understanding and agreement.
Hayo Reinders, Marilyn Lewis
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