Workshops worth our while



BESIDES conferences, lectures and seminars, workshops are also a popular training mode. Enterprising individuals have set up training centers to cater for professional and/or personal development needs. So, what is a workshop worth our while—learning gains, participation fees and time invested considered?

What a training workshop is. A workshop differs from a seminar. Its topic or topics call for “doing,” learning the knowhow or skills and techniques necessary to carry out the topic or topics as announced to its public.

“Participants in a workshop are not just going to be sitting listening to things they already know, or things they don’t need to know. They are going to be learning—and enjoying learning.”<>“A training workshop is a type of interactive training where participants carry out a number of training activities rather than passively listen to a lecture or presentation.” There are two types of workshops. “A general workshop is put on for a mixed audience, and a closed workshop is tailored towards meeting the training needs of a specific group.”<>.“Workshops tend to be smaller and more intense than seminars.” A facilitator ensures that participants gain the skills relative to the issues as defined for participants. Such skills may involve processes that have to be practiced and mastered such as curriculum mapping, creating student learning outcomes for a course, preparing an outcomes-based syllabus, designing a seminar, etc. “The promise is that when they leave, they’ll have at least a rough plan or tools in place to address the challenge.

Publicity announcement and intended learning outcomes. Publicity about experts is focused on their qualifications relevant to the topics of the workshop. The rationale of workshop topics explains how critically important these topics are; how the intended training outcomes are to one’s career, how timely these are, especially if there’s not much expertise available to labor market demands. The intended training outcomes as announced are clear and unambiguous. They are built into the main framework of the workshop in a logical and coherent way. The workshop timeline describes activities likely to engage participants with, during the workshop. This gives interested participants a fairly good idea of how the workshop will proceed. To avoid disillusioning the public, intended training outcomes (ITO) are simply and succinctly worded (minus bombastic language) stressing what participants can expect to gain from the workshop. The ITO are SMART, that is, they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-specified. This means, the ITO can be achieved within the timeline indicated as publicly announced.

Timescale considerations and workshop dynamics. The timescale of workshop activities is realistic. This means, first, it takes into consideration the scope and contents of each exercise along with participants’ level of experience and competence. Second, especially among us Filipinos, proper time for lunch and snacks is built into the time scale, too. Third, allotted time and group/syndicate meetings with experts/facilitators are flexible and realistic. Fourth, during the plenary, the rationale and intended training outcomes as announced in the publicity material are reiterated; their presentation may be expanded. Fifth, the expert or a set of experts work in unison in demonstrating to participants the process of executing a task in order to achieve the intended training outcome. Sixth, facilitators are aware of the cultural shyness among us Filipinos, especially when our higher-ups are around during the workshop. Hence, facilitators encourage participants to clarify what may not be certain before starting to work on proposed tasks and are given leeway to raise questions about what they are supposed to achieve. They are given a “chance to express what they want to learn, over and above what they may need to learn.” They are made “confident that as far as is reasonably practicable, the training workshop will address what they want to learn alongside what they need to achieve.” Seventh, debriefing and feedback follow every activity. The timeline provides enough feedback among groups and from the experts or facilitators about participants’ performance and also, for “repeating what they do until they get the process right.” This enables participants to make sense of the tasks at hand and understand why the procedures have to be such as to be able to accomplish the tasks. Mistakes are explained in courteous language and suggestions are made “in a supportive, encouraging learning environment.” Eighth, innovations, if any, are acknowledged, instilling confidence in participants, and having them enjoy accomplishing workshop tasks. Ninth, groups/syndicates exchange venues; group composition is deliberately rearranged. Thus, participants can work with most, rather than only with a few, other participants. Furthermore, influence of fellow participants (such as domineering, awkward, or prejudiced, or overly experienced ones) “is distributed rather than contained.”<>

Workshop materials, props and venue. Workshop materials as handouts or on flip charts or slides, are direct, brief and easily understood. A list of references for further learning introduced during the workshop may be supplied at the end of the workshop. Presentation equipment and appropriately equipped facilities are promptly available. Needed staff are courteous and well-versed in their assigned tasks. Light, ventilation, amenities, functional syndicate rooms and a quiet environment provide the workshop participants comfortable venues. The topics rationale, ITOs, the timeline indicated in the publicity announcement — all these are pleasantly executed and fees prove reasonable.

Assuring these major features will likely make a training workshop worth our while.

(You may wish to see Dr. Tumapon’s training activity on curriculum in Training Activities for Teachers in Higher Education, edited by Pat Cryer, published in the UK.)



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