Monday, October 4, 2010

Effective Workshops, Part 2

Picking up from last week’s entry, let me bring this to a close by adding in these additional tips, based on the work of Dr. Yvonne Steinert (1).

7. Encourage active participation and allow for problem solving and/or skill acquisition. Steinart notes that active participation is a key ingredient of a successful workshop; therefore, you should plan to have people and groups involved in all aspects of the workshop you are leading. Invite questions, lead debate and engage attendees. In order to allow this to happen, you should work to limit the size of the small groups, so that everyone can have an opportunity to be heard and to be involved. In fact, the actual lay-out of the room can help or hinder this process; lecture rooms are not conducive to small-group activity.

8. Provide relevant and practical information. We know this from the general problem facing continuing education that often people attend programs or conferences and when they return it has changed nothing on what they do. You need to ensure that your participants have learned something new which they can apply when they return to their work setting. Your workshop can contain mini-lectures around which the small-group activities revolve, but a long lecture is not a good way to provide skills and knowledge which will be applied upon return to work. People need to interact with both you and others to reinforce learning.

9. Remember principles of adult learning. This means that we each will bring to the sessions we attend our past experiences and training, and our own personal motivations and expectations about the workshop. We need to remind ourselves that as adults, we are often re-learning, rather than learning, so we need to be careful in how we present information so that we do not create resentment among those who are in attendance. The incentive for learning is self-motivated, not externally motivated, and feedback is therefore critically important.

10. Vary your activities and your style. Consider the pacing of your presentation, and ensure that it meets with participant needs and attention. I find that I am resistant to certain kinds of group work; I tend to work best alone, but I also know that I will learn better when I have people to play ideas and thoughts against. Consider this as well.

11. Summarize your session and request feedback from the group. Always restate your goals and objectives in running the workshop in order to summarize and synthesize the points you have made. You may wish to ask the group to also summarize what they have learned, and you can ask as well for them to give you thoughts on what you might do to improve this session in the future.

12. Enjoy yourself- and have fun. There was a time when I because quite fearful before I ran sessions for professionals. It took time for me to realize that the people attending would not know whether or not I presented all I meant to present, nor would they know if I had made a flub somewhere along the line. This was liberating; I could now go and just do the session and enjoy myself and I now look forward to running workshop sessions. If you have a good time, chances are so will the people taking the session with you.

1. Steinert Y. Twelve tips for conducting effective workshops. Med Teacher 1992;14:127-131

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