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Training and Assessing Workbook - Implementation guide


Section 3: Planning a workshop

3.1 Is there a 'right' number of participants?

There is no 'right' number of participants for a workshop and we rarely have a choice in the number. The number of participants at a workshop is usually determined by people's availability at the time of the workshop and the size of the venue.

Smaller numbers offer the opportunity for in-depth discussions, reflection and review. There is more time to address the specific requirements of the participants. There are also fewer inputs from the group. When you are offering workshops for supervisors who are training supported employees you will most likely be limited by and will need to consider, the availability of relevant people.

Rather than focus on the right number of participants it may be preferable to think about the right workshop design for the participants you will be facilitating.

3.2 Should participants be consulted about workshop content?

If you have an opportunity to talk to participants before you start planning a workshop you are in a fortunate position. It will allow you to cater more specifically to the participants' needs. You can gain information about their:

Information you have prior to the workshop can assist you prepare a workshop that better meets the participants' needs. You will be able to pitch the content at the right level and develop activities and discussion points that are relevant to the participants' workplace.

Planning the content of a workshop

Careful preparation for a workshop helps to build the confidence of the facilitator and ensures that participants have the best possible learning experience. The structure of the workshop must be planned, as well as the individual sessions.

3.3 How should a workshop be structured?

Having a basic framework for any workshop you conduct will make your delivery easier. You need a flexible approach to structuring a workshop and be continually aware of the objective of the session workshop. Think about the objective of the workshop as a broad pathway where there is some room to wander before you fall off the edge. The broad pathway will give you opportunity to follow relevant points of discussion as they are raised during the session.

You will need to be aware of the time available. Have a starting time and a finishing time and stick to them. Do not wait for late participants and always finish on time.

Workshops should have a beginning, middle and an end and everyone should be aware of these. Unless the session is quite short you will need to include breaks. The following table provides some ideas about structuring a workshop.

Welcome Provide information about:
  • the trainer and the participants
  • workshop content activities, for example small group work, case studies, large group discussion
  • session times and breaks
  • facilities, for example toilets, tea room
  • expectations for participation, for example equity, sharing, listening.
Sessions Vary the types of activity in a workshop. Different activities will appeal to participants and they will respond in different ways. Information can be shared through pairs, small and large group work or presentations.
Session review After each session, summarise the key points.
Break Include breaks at regular intervals. They don't have to be long, but they do have to allow participants time to reflect on the previous parts of the workshop or just refresh themselves.
Workshop evaluation Always ask participants to evaluate the workshop.
Workshop close Revise the workshop. Identify the key learning points. Remind participants about the resources available to them.

If some of the activities are scheduled to run for an extended period of time, you will need to closely monitor the participants' responses. A presentation that runs for too long or a group work session that has been allocated too much time can reduce the participants' levels of enthusiasm and attention. In these instances you should consider intervening with questions or alternative points for consideration. Try to enliven the session again.

3.4 How many sessions should there be in a workshop?

There is no specific number. Each workshop is likely to have a number of parts or sessions that will depend on the topics you want to cover and the time you have available. Planning will be easier if you consider each session individually, again keeping in mind the objective of the whole workshop.


3.5 What training tools should be used?

Use training tools and equipment that you are comfortable using and you believe will enhance the participants' opportunities to develop skills and knowledge.

If you are planning to use data projectors, overhead projectors, video or DVD players, make sure they are in working order and you can operate them. If you are using posters or butcher's paper for group responses make sure you have enough working pens for all the groups and tape for displaying the finished product.

Think about tables and chairs as equipment. The way you set up a room can affect training. Think about how you can use the room size, shape and furnishings to contribute to the training. You may want to vary the seating arrangements during the workshop to help keep the participants interested and involved.

3.6 How should workshops be evaluated?

It is always helpful to have the participants' feedback. An evaluation gives an opportunity for participants to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the workshop and provides you with a tool for developing future workshops. Evaluations can be written or oral. Sample evaluations are included in the trainer's toolkit.

When developing an evaluation consider including questions about

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