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close this bookTrainer's Guide for Training of Elected Officials (HABITAT)
close this folderPart III - Workshop learning components
View the documentOverview
View the documentReading
View the documentPresentations
View the documentDiscussions
View the documentStructured exercises
View the documentCase study
View the documentRole playing
View the documentSimulations
View the documentInstruments

Structured exercises

Each of the handbooks in the Elected Leadership series consists of exercises and activities developed and sequenced to provide a comprehensive learning experience for councillors. A variety of activities (role plays, case studies, simulations, instruments, and so forth) have been put together in various combinations. This has been done to help councillor participants make sense out of the concepts and ideas being presented and heighten the probability they will be persuaded to use them to improve their performance in their many councillor roles. Developing and sequencing exercise material ahead of time has been done for another reason - to simplify your life as a trainer by providing you with a starting point for the design of workshops to train councillors in your own part of the world.

Later in this guide we will be discussing some of the specific types of structured exercises mentioned above. At this point, however, we want to share some perspectives on the use of exercises in general and to talk about three types not covered in detail elsewhere: (a) the warm-up exercise; (b) problem solving exercises; and (c) the learning transfer exercise.

The exercises of which the handbooks in this series are comprised, despite marked differences in subject matter, are all structured in the same way.

· Each exercise begins with an estimate of the time required. The times or time ranges are a generous estimate of the time it takes to complete the exercise based on actual field-test results. While staying with the published times is important, even more important is to be sure enough time is allowed for sharing and processing of information arising from the exercise. If it takes longer to complete an exercise than scheduled, you may be able to make it up elsewhere in the workshop or perhaps negotiate with the participants for additional time.

· The time estimate is followed by the exercise objective. Each objective is performance oriented; that is, it is meant to be a specific, realistic appraisal of what participants will know or be able to do as a result of their active participation in the exercise. The test of a good objective is that participants can understand it and see themselves capable of achieving it.

· Following the objective is a step-by-step procedure to be followed, indicating in detail what you are to do and say and what participants are to do in the appropriate sequence. We call this the process. Occasionally, the process will include variations or alternatives for your consideration, particularly if the exercise is to be used with participants who work together and may be interested in improving their team performance. A time estimate may be provided for various steps in the process.

· The process description is followed by any worksheets which are to be read or on which participants are expected to write. Typical worksheets are cases, role-play situations and role descriptions, instruments to be completed, questions to be answered by small groups, and other participant-involving things. Worksheets should have clear instructions and be easy for participants to read. All worksheets included in the handbooks are designed and intended for mass duplication.

Each workshop begins with a warm-up exercise. These exercises are transitional experiences, meant to serve as a bridge between the new ideas being presented in the workshop and the pre-existing knowledge and points of view that participants bring with them. A warm-up exercise in The Councillor as Policy-maker, for example, asks participants to reflect on their past experiences as councillors with making policy. Another in The Councillor as Communicator uses a puzzle to demonstrate the value of sharing different perceptions of the same situation. Still another in The Councillor as Decision-maker is to help participants interpret their own unique, personal ways of making a decision. Warm-ups, in other words, are the means by which you begin moving participants from the known to the unknown - to start the process of getting them acquainted as early into the workshop as possible with one another, the learning process, and you.

Several of the exercises make use of one of several well-known methods of group problem-solving. In each case, the intent is to pass along to workshop participants a working knowledge of a useful process and, at the same time, experience in using the process to carry out a role-relevant learning task. In The Councillor as Communicator, participants are introduced to brainstorming, perhaps the best known method in the world for generating ideas to solve a problem or make a decision. Participants in The Councillor as Leader are encouraged to use force field analysis as an analytical aid in planning ways to remove obstacles to the attainment of a leadership objective. And another well known method for idea generation called the nominal group technique is suggested to participants at the workshop on The Councillor as Financier as a useful structure for creating a list of ideas to raise revenue and lower cost.

Several of the workshops make use of councillor-relevant problems to stimulate the reasoning process. In several instances, participants are asked to read the problem or situation on their own and then, in small groups, to analyse the situation and to reach a decision or course of action which is reported during a plenary session. Examples include: evaluating the usefulness of a conventional negotiating strategy - The Councillor as Negotiator, resolving a potentially destructive interpersonal conflict - The Councillor as Facilitator, reviewing a financial statement for evidence of inconsistencies and speculating about their causes - The Councillor as Financier.

In several workshops, problem-solving activities are supported by worksheets that are to be filled out by participants working in small groups as an aid to analysis and for later reporting. Worksheets are useful for at least two reasons: (a) they provide a record of small group reactions to the assigned tasks, and (b) they give participants a written record of their small group's results to take home with them. Examples of worksheets used in the workshop series are: the generation of ideas for optional ways to deliver local government services - The Councillor as Enabler, a list of strategies for recognizing and lowering barriers to communication between councils and community groups - The Councillor as Communicator, and the development of a plan for monitoring the effectiveness of a local government service programme - The Councillor as Overseer.

At the other end of each workshop is a skill-transfer exercise. The exercise is the same for all the workshops. The intent is to reverse the process and begin the transition from the workshop environment back to the "real world" of participating councillors. It is important that before leaving the workshop participants begin making definite plans for trying out or changing certain aspects of their role performance as councillors. These plans are stronger to the degree that they are made in writing, realistically critiqued, and shared openly with other participants.