How to design workshops that enable learning

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As a first step, we broke into pairs to reflect on recent on a recent learning experience. Then in the pairs, we wrote the following methods for learning on post-it notes:

  • Reading step by step instructions
  • Listening to a lecture
  • Watching and listening to a presentation
  • Watching a video ‘how to’
  • Teaching others
  • Discussion with peers
  • Personal Experience

And put them in order of most effective ways of learning to least effective.

During a large group discussion, we identified ‘teaching others’ and ‘personal experience’ as being effective ways of learning. While listening to a lecture was deemed least effective, along with ‘reading step by step instructions’

We then discussed research by Malcom S. Knowles and his theory of Andragogy, how adults learn:

  • Adults need to understand and accept the reason for learning a specific skill.
  • Experience (including error) provides the basis for learning activities.
  • Adults need to be involved in both the planning and evaluation of their learning.
  • Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented.
  • Most adults are interested in learning what has immediate relevance to their professional and social lives.

We then discussed a hackable format for workshops that enable learning called ADIDS. ADIDS stands for Activity-Discussion-Input-Deepening-Synthesis. It is one of the teaching methodologies for adult learning – there are others but for the purpose of this training we will focus on ADIDS.

  • Activity: The session begins with an activity that is connected to the topic of the session. This is meant to introduce the topic to the participants using interactive exercises. Trainers / facilitators design this beforehand to illustrate some of the issues that they want the participants to start thinking about.
  • Discussion: In this part of your session, everyone talks about what they thought of the activity they just completed. The trainer / facilitator should prepare questions to guide the activity.
  • Input: This is usually the lecture part of the session. The trainer presents on issues, sub-topics and more advanced concepts related to focus of the session
  • Deepening: In technical training, this is usually the hands-on segment of a session. This is where the participants will get to put what they are learning to use
  • Synthesis: A good training habit is to always summarize the session. Talk about what happened in the session, some of the results of the discussion, what issues were discussed, what solutions were made, and give some more time for participants to ask more questions before the session is closed.

We then brainstormed some best practices:

  • Always ground activities in workshop goals, even icebreakers (never do activities just for the sake of doing activities.
  • Keep group breakouts small - no more than four people, three is optimal to assure everyone participates.
  • If possible do outreach before hand to find out how the workshop will be of value to participants - a good set of questions:
    • What is your organisation trying to accomplish?
    • How does your role support that?
    • What challenges do you face in your role?
    • How might this workshop help you face those challenges?
  • Do Follow-up - a good set of questions from Christine Prefontaine:
    • At the beginning I felt ___________. Now I feel ___________.
    • This was different because ___________.
    • I learned that ___________.
    • I would have liked more ___________.
    • From now on, I’m going to do ___________ differently.

Resources to draw upon:

This session was derived from FabRiders Training of Trainers Module on Adult Learning and ADIDS.