Training guide 5

In this document:

Facilitating workshop tasks, individual and group contributions

As the workshop gets going, be prepared to allow for any related discussion to flow – you may not need to intervene or contribute very much yourself. At some stage, however, there are several types of facilitation that could be required. Broadly speaking, the interventions you make will be directed either to the task of the group, or to ‘group maintenance’.

Ensure everyone is contributing

If you feel someone needs to be ‘brought in’ to the discussion, it might be appropriate to ask them specifically for an opinion, using their name: “Shaheen – what do you think about that?”, or more generally, if several group members are left out: “What does everyone else think about that?” Be sensitive to those who are less vocal in group settings.

Keep the discussion on track

Be careful here, because you do not want to stifle the flow. If it is clear that the discussion has gone off on a tangent, share this feeling with the group: “I wonder if we have strayed a bit away from our purpose here?” You may find that the group readily agree, and get back on track. Alternatively, the group may be finding the discussion of particular value, for example it may reflect particularly pertinent local issues and they may wish to continue with it. In this case, negotiate with the group - remind them of the objectives you had all agreed at the beginning, and get the group to decide whether they want to abandon these and follow the new direction, or return to the original plan. Consider this carefully, as allocating time to the new area of discussion may mean less input elsewhere in the program.

A one day workshop is invariably bounded with tight time constraints: be mindful that diverting from the tasks may undermine your learning objectives. You should also be aware that more vocal participants may express themselves more forcefully than others. It is important that any decisions reflect the needs of the whole group as best as possible, including those less willing or able to voice opinions in larger groups. As a workshop facilitator, your aim is to balance leading the group towards achieving the planned objectives of the day, while also allowing the group to determine its own priorities - within reason.

Clarify contributions

Sometimes it will be helpful to explore a statement a little more deeply in a non-confrontational way: “That sounds really interesting, Sian – can you tell us a bit more about it?” Summarise the discussion. A successful way of moving the discussion on is to summarise to the group what has been said so far. Do this in an exploratory way: “Shall I try and summarise what we have agreed?” and check out that the group agree with your version: “Does that sound right to you all?” Gain agreement before moving on subsequent parts of the workshop: “Shall we move on to the next stage?”

Facilitating Group Discussion

When discussions are going on among the whole group (starting with the introductions at the beginning of each workshop or course), seat yourself and any co-facilitator, as part of the circle. When discussing a topic, especially when you want the discussion to build among participants - with less direction from yourself - sitting as part of the larger group gives a non-verbal message that you are giving up your position of authority for a while to allow a more open discussion.

Lecture/Didactic Presentation

When you are lecturing, you may want to stand since this conveys authority, though this is a matter of personal preference and teaching style. Lectures or didactic presentation can be a less engaging form of training delivery but they are important for communicating key information. Lectures can be performed in many ways. Rather than simply reading off each slide and the notes in the workshop guidelines, try rephrasing key points as “facilitating questions” For example: ‘When would you use this information?’ ‘When might it not apply?’ ‘What would be an example of that point?’ ‘What do you think is the underlying principle?’ ‘How does that reflect the local experience?’ The more familiar you are with the course content and knowledgeable around workshop themes, the more able you will be adapt your presentation approach to meet participants’ varying learning styles.

Use questions to break up the lecturing process - especially if you feel participants are becoming bored - and to check assumptions. Sometimes you might assume too much experience or knowledge among the participants and sometimes too little. Ask questions to clarify whether everyone has a similar level of basic knowledge, before moving on to new knowledge or skills. Ask what participants know or feel about a particular topic. It can be helpful to clarify whether they have had any experience of the subjects being discussed.

Small Group Work/Exercises

Small group work will be used within the workshop. There are three characteristics that need to be present for small group work to be effective:

There should be active participation from all the members of the group
This should be established before small groups are asked to form. This is one very important way in which small group work differs from lectures or larger group discussions. Facilitators are able to oversee the process, across all groups, and provide a bit of a balancing influence: helping those who are reticent to contribute and helping others who are more voluble to leave some space for colleagues.
There needs to be a specific task
Irrespective of the length of the small group task, this needs to be established and clear to all before the small group is formed. Everyone needs to be aiming to achieve the same thing from the group work – otherwise it is unlikely that the group will be able to work as a unit. The task may require someone to note discussions and to feed back to the larger group. Ensure that a person is nominated before the group starts its task.
There needs to be reflection
This is crucial. The kind of learning that small groups can achieve goes deeper than just memorising lists of facts or procedures. It arises from people’s own experiences, and therefore tends to have greater meaning for people. Group members should be helped to think back over their own experiences, and be prepared to share that with the rest of the group. This is the process of reflection. Allow sufficient time for participant to process their learning.

Role-playing, exercises and games are often valued parts of training. When participants have to do something - rather than sit and listen or talk - it can be very stimulating to the learning process. Often, participants remember the sensation of being in a particular role or playing a game more strongly than they remember other information. These techniques are particularly useful for developing skills. While other training techniques can increase knowledge, skills are normally enhanced through practice. Role plays could help participants to feel what it might be like to be, say, a PWID concerned and anxious about the significance of their HCV status and treatment options. They can help participants to think about their attitudes towards people who inject and other drug users. Activities that involve physical movement can be especially useful after lunch, when energy is often lower.


Brainstorming is a method used to collect opinions and information rapidly, generate ideas and develop solutions to problems creatively. Brainstorming can help you choose a topic, develop an approach to a topic, or deepen your understanding of the topic's potential.

When brainstorming:

  • The question should be clear
  • Allow participants a few moments to contemplate the question before being given
  • the chance to offer answers, comments or ideas
  • Everyone should participate
  • There should be no immediate criticism or discussion of the ideas presented
  • Ideas are recorded on a flip chart (usually by a facilitator while the co-facilitator fields
  • key words or phrases called out by participants)
  • The process should move quickly
  • A time limit should be set.
Ending modules/the workshop

At the end of any module, let the group know that they are reaching the end of the available time: “Can I just let you know that we will need to break for lunch in about ten minutes?” or “We have a further five minutes before we come together to feedback as a large group”. This will also help you to bring the discussion to a close and draw conclusions.

Offer a summary at the end of each module and a more comprehensive one at the end of the workshop. Allow enough time for this: “Can we just summarise what we have learned from this?”

Evaluating the training

Evaluation is an important part of the training process because workshops develop organically over time as knowledge and understanding changes. The workshop evaluation process is covered in more depth in Module 12 and is designed to assist you in assessing participants’ reactions to the workshop and to determine its effectiveness.  It is often useful to prepare a summary report based on the results of the evaluation to help either you or other trainers in offering similar workshops or courses in the future. Such a report should include:

  • The name of the workshop, where and when it was held
  • The organisers and commissioners of the workshop
  • The facilitators’ names and organisations, where applicable
  • Participants’ names and brief information about them (for example, their title,
  • workplace and locality)
  • Trainers’ comments on major issues that arose during the workshop
  • The results of the workshop/course evaluations, highlighting those that are significant
  • Recommendations for changes to course materials, methods and participant selection.
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