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Community Education Workshop Methods

These are some examples of workshop methods.


Go-arounds – In a go-around everyone in the circle gets a chance to speak, for example, to introduce themselves, saying their name and organisation.

Wordwheels – Ask people to stand in two circles of equal numbers, one inside the other, so that each person in the inside circle faces someone in the outside circle. Ask people to introduce themselves to each other. After a minute or two, you ask the outside person to move one place to the right. Then ask people to do a second introduction or to say something about themselves or their work.

Icebreakers – Icebreakers are ways of getting people to loosen up and relax. For example, ask people to shake hands and introduce themselves to everyone in the group in two minutes. You can also try things like singing, playing games or warm-up exercises.

Expectations – Ask people to say what they want out of the workshop (their expectations) using the go-around or wordwheel method.

Finalising the programme – After hearing the expectations of the participants, summarise the aim of the workshop. Then go through the workshop programme (structure) which should already be written up on newsprint on the wall. Allow some time for questions or changes that people may want to make.

Big group (plenary) methods

Formal inputs (talks or lectures) – A talk by one person should not go on longer than 15 or 20 minutes. The input can be split between two people. Inputs should be kept as simple and practical as possible, and use charts, handouts and plenty of examples.

Big group (plenary) discussions – There are different times in a workshop when you can have a big group discussion, for example, after small groups report back, or when the big group must decide on something. In a big workshop, it is better to keep the time for big group discussions short and to make more use of different small group methods

Speaking from experience – Ask one of the participants to talk about his or her direct experience of the issue or problem you are discussing in the workshop.

Case-study input – Give a short input on how a particular problem or issue was handled before and on what lessons can be learnt from this experience. If available, use photos, press-clippings or videos to explain the case-study.

Drama – A prepared and well-practised play (drama) is a good way of highlighting particular issues or processes, for example, acting out the steps involved in a forced removal.

Role-play – The role-play can also be used to act out everyday problems. A role-play is different from a drama because you get people in the workshop to act a part without letting them practise beforehand. Afterwards you assess their responses to being thrown into a situation. For example, role-playing a house being raided.

Debate – In a debate you make people take up different positions on a particular issue or proposal. Have a discussion after the debate and give each side an equal chance to answer the points that came up in the debate.

Buzz groups – In buzz groups you ask each person in the circle to turn to both their neighbours and to discuss something for a short time (usually 5 or 10 minutes). Then from the chair you do a quick go-around to get feedback by asking someone from each group to report back one point, and then other groups to only add on new points.

Wordwheels – You can also use the wordwheel method to discuss questions in a big group.

Small group methods

Small group discussions are an important part of all workshops.

After any long presentation (for example an input, role-play or drama), break people up into small groups to discuss what they saw or heard. Small groups should have no more than 8 people. Give small groups at least 30 minutes for discussion. It is better to give groups one or two clear questions to discuss rather than a long list of questions.

Facilitating small groups – A facilitator is a ‘group leader’. Each group should have a facilitator who has been part of the workshop planning and who is clear on the questions the group has to discuss. Ask someone else in the group to take notes and to report back in the big group later on. The facilitator makes sure that everyone gets a chance to speak, that people stick to the topic and that people do not interrupt each other or get involved in one-to-one discussions.

(See: Guidelines for Facilitating Small Groups)

Floating – While people are discussing in small groups, it is a good idea to have one or more of the workshop organisers moving about from group to group checking if everyone is clear on the questions, and, later on, reminding people how much time they have left.

Reporting-back – There must always be a full report-back from each of the small groups. Ask the report-back person to report back in a lively way. The main points only should be summarised.

Write on newsprint the main points that each group reports. You can also ask each group to write a very short summary of their discussion on newsprint. Put this up for everyone to see.

These are methods you can use to improve small group discussions:

Go-arounds – The go-around method works very well in small groups. Go around in the circle giving each person a chance to talk. Do not let people interrupt or disagree with each other until everyone in the group has had their chance to speak.

Problem-solving and tasks – Give each group a very practical problem or task to work on. Ask the group to give a step-by-step approach to the problem and to write this down on newsprint. Write out the problems or questions for each group on a piece of paper beforehand and give this to the group facilitator. For example, you can ask small groups to develop a short drama around the issue, or to draw a map to explain the layout of an area, or to draw up a chart or pamphlet to simplify some problem or law.

A listening exercise – This is like a debate. You divide the group into two sides. Side A has to motivate for a particular solution, Side B has to motivate against it. Side A presents its argument. Before Side B responds, someone from the group must summarise Side A’s argument. Then Side B gives its first argument. Side A must then summarise this point before giving the next argument. The exercise then continues in the same way until the time is up. The main aim of this exercise is to encourage people to listen to the arguments of others and to learn how to summarise important points in a short time.