Reflection

Information Discovery

One method of teaching is to directly feed information into the minds of students. In training, however, it is much more effective to provide participants with plenty of opportunities to deduce the information you want them to learn on their own. One powerful method for discovering new information and gaining new insights is reflection.

Videos

A trainer can show a carefully selected short video to participants during the training session that touches upon one or more points related to the training. The trainer may then ask participants to split into groups and collaboratively reflect on such a video they have just seen deducing lessons and coming up with new insights from that video. Showing a video is a highly engaging activity for participants and is a sure way to get and maintain their full attention. Each group of participants can write down their reflections on a sheet of paper then come up and present them in front of the rest of the participants.

Games

A trainer may provide participants with a game during the training session that has specific training goals. After the game is over the trainer may start asking participants about what they have learnt from that game. The trainer may also ask them about how they felt at specific times during the game. By allowing participants to reflect on their own feelings and on the development and outcome of the game they have just played they are often able to come up with new insights and lessons from such experience they just had.

Self Discovery

During attending the graphic facilitation workshop, the trainers asked us to draw the process of making coffee. After we finished the drawing activity, they asked each of us to look at his or her drawing of the coffee making process and try to discover something about his or her own personality. I kept gazing at my drawing for quite a while without being able to discover anything really meaningful about myself. Then it suddenly struck me that the drawings clearly indicated that I am a multitasking person who likes to do several things in parallel since I did not draw the process in steps, like most of my colleagues had done, but rather drew all components of the coffee making process as if they were happening simultaneously without a specific order or sequence. I like to finish things quickly and reach for the end goal in a short time. Such was another example of using reflection to gain insight after a training activity this time being a self reflection.

Wrapping Up

After providing participants with ample opportunity to reflect on a video you have shown them and express their findings or reflect on a game they have just played during their training you can then proceed to summarize and comment on their reflections perhaps stressing some of them, modifying others and even adding some insights of your own. Reflection is a powerful technique that can provide participants with deep insights and high rate of information retention if used appropriately by the trainer in various occasions during training.

How else can reflections be used other than after watching videos, playing training games and making drawings?

Group Work Activities for Training Workshops

Interactive training workshops are more engaging than boring lectures and are more effective than mere presentations done by a trainer. Group work is one of the main kinds of activities that can make a training session highly interactive and engaging and thus enjoyable and of high impact.

Single Presenter

Here is basically how group work works:

  1. Trainer divides participants into groups.
  2. Trainer asks each group to discuss a specific topic and write down their thoughts in points.
  3. Trainer then asks each team to nominate one of its members to come and present the points of his team in front of all participants.

Multiple Presenters

A variation would be to ask each team to send 2 or even 3 of its members to present the points written by the team. This is helpful in team building training where you want participants to practice collaboration and cooperation. In such  cases, you must clearly state that both participants sharing the presentation have to share equally in presenting their team’s points. It is not acceptable that one participant goes ahead reading and explaining all the points while forgetting all about his colleague who is standing next to him and not leaving any points for that colleague to cover. The trainer must clearly state that this is not allowed. The trainer must state this before the teams start their presentations.

Time Stretching

The time it takes each team to present their points is proportional to the number of team members giving the presentation. If you ask each team to send 2 of its team members to give the presentation this would take them more time than if you had asked them to send only one team member to do the presentation. Similarly, 3 members would take a longer time in presenting than 2 members even though they have the same number of points to present. This phenomenon can be used by the trainer to reduce or expand the time of the group work activity in order to manage the training session time.

Sheets

Before the teams start their discussions, you can provide them with flip chart sheets to use for writing their points. You may even ask them to cut the sheets themselves from the flip chart and divide a single sheet into 2 or 3 parts and divide it on the other teams.

Seating

It is of great value that you ask the teams to site in circles. As they start their discussions, if you find one of the teams not arranging their chairs in a proper circle go to them and guide them to do so. The seating positions during this activity have a very high and noticeable effect on the performance of a team. Sitting in a perfect circle makes it possible for everyone to participate and boosts synergy among team members creating what might seem like a sort of resonance.

Getting Creative

I remember once that one of the teams got creative during their presentation and threw in a mini-play instead of a mere reading and explaining of the points they have written. A trainer should praise and encourage such creative initiatives.

Topic

The topic of discussion can be to reflect on a video just viewed by participants or to try and find answers for a question or solutions for a problem or just to list any kind of information the trainer asks them to list.

Conclusion

Group work is an activity that participants usually enjoy greatly and benefit from. Nevertheless, the trainer should take care to alternate between it and other forms of training so that participants do not get over-exhausted. Group work is usually a fundamental part of every interactive training workshop.

What kind of training program do you think group work would not be appropriate to use in?

My Story with Lively Vs. Boring Training

Creative Writing Workshop

I once joined a 3-day creative writing workshop. We were a small group of trainees and the trainer was a highly competent one. I really enjoyed attending the workshop and benefited from it enormously. The main focus of the workshop was activities rather than lecturing. The amount of information provided by the trainer during the workshop was minimal yet the activities were plenty. We had pair work activities, solo activities and group activities. We were guided and gently pushed to write which eventually led to the opening up of some creative doors in our minds that have long been locked.

Conflicting Session Time

I remember that at the final day of the creative writing workshop it coincided with another training course I wanted so much to attend. It was about how to start a new business. I had to make a decision whether to attend the final session of the creative writing workshop while leaving the first session in the other training course that I have long been dreaming of attending or do the opposite. I decided to go for the start your own business course and leave out the final session of the creative writing workshop. I even excused myself from the creative writing trainer and told her by the end of the second session that I would not be able to attend the final one.

Start your Business Course

Off I went with great hopes to attend the start your own business course. As it started, the ‘trainer’ told us that the course will be interactive and that he will not be relying a lot on lecturing but rather taking a participatory approach. I was shocked from the start of the session that his approach actually lacked any activities, was so boring and the ultimate ‘participatory’ element he ever used was asking questions to participants. His comments on participant answers were even so negative and not by any means encouraging.

Back to Creative Writing

seriously considered leaving as my heart was leaping at the thought of the creative writing session I had left behind to attend such dry and useless course. I kept meditating the idea of leaving this boring session to catch the coinciding creative writing session. Luckily, we took a break soon and I did make the decision and drove to the location of the creative writing workshop which was not very far away. I entered the creative writing workshop and was a bit late. The trainer looked slightly surprised that I showed up. I told her that I just could not resist attending! I was indeed extremely happy that I have joined that final session of the creative writing workshop. It was so lively, engaging and enjoyable. After the workshop I realized that a creative door has opened in my mind and an avalanche of writing started to flow from pen to paper as I went back home.

This experience of mine showed me a sharp contrast between a boring useless course with little value vs a lively highly engaging truly interactive workshop that is of high value. One of the main lessons learnt here is that a training course with plenty of engaging activities and a minimal amount of direct information can not only be more enjoyable than another with no activities and loads of information transferred through lecturing but can also be of much higher value to participants.

Clustering

When I went to Alexandria to attend the 3-day Graphic Facilitation Workshop, by Nanna Frank and Anne Madsen, I experienced the clustering technique which was used by the trainers as an activity during the workshop. Clustering turned out to be a very interesting and highly engaging technique. I am going to describe the clustering process below.

Divergence: Brainstorming

Small pieces of paper are placed on the floor in the middle of the training room while participant seats are arranged in a large circle. Participants are asked to write one or more words on one of the small pieces of paper on the ground then leave the paper facing upwards on the ground. Participants may also draw instead of write. What they draw or write belong to a topic or answer a question asked by the trainer such as: “In your opinion, what do you think makes a community healthy or makes a team tick?”

Clustering

Participants are then allowed to move simultaneously in silence and arrange the pieces of paper on the ground into groups or clusters of related words and/or drawings. Participants should not keep holding the pieces of paper in their hands but move them around by pushing or sliding them on the ground without holding them in their hands so that they remain visible to the rest of the participants. Participants are not allowed to speak during this phase. When a participant feels satisfied with the groupings he or she then steps back. When everyone is satisfied and steps back the third phase of the clustering group activity starts.

Convergence: Distilling

Each participant selects a cluster and stands next to it. The cluster he or she selects should be the one that represents him or her more. We will find that participants sharing similar views are standing next to one another around the same cluster. Participants are then given a chance to speak to one another. Each group of participants standing around a cluster are asked to grab an extra piece of paper and write on it a title that sums up all the other words and drawings present in the cluster they are standing around.

Reflecting

Each group then shows the title they have arrived at. The trainer then asks them how they reached such a title and how did the discussion go. Participants then stick the pieces of paper forming their cluster on the wall under the title they have come up with. Those titles are considered to be the answer to the question the trainer had first asked. They were reached by the whole community of participants.

This technique is so fun and participants feel a lot of satisfaction after completing it. I have used it twice myself during delivering team building training for the banking sector and once during delivering a training of trainers course at Resala with great success.

Would you consider trying out the clustering technique in your next training program?