|Trainer's Guide for Training of Elected Officials (HABITAT)|
|Part IV - Managing training delivery|
In other parts of this guide we have made suggestions to help you prepare for a workshop on training for elected leadership. We have described the various components of the various workshop designs with more suggestions on their respective purposes and uses as aids to councillor learning. Now, we want to offer a few more suggestions on your role in performing some of the most important training delivery tasks during the course of a workshop. We use the term "managing" to emphasise that the trainer's role is more than simply to serve up information for the participants' consumption. It involves managing the process by which the participants digest the information and make plans to use it in their various roles as elected officials.
In deciding what to include and what to exclude from this discussion, we've had to make some hard choices. Therefore, we have narrowed the topics to be covered to these four:
· delivering information,
· giving instructions,
· monitoring small group activities,
· facilitating small group reporting.
Earlier in this guide we described the presentation as a key component of each of the workshop designs. Involving participants in the presentation through questionand-answer and embellishing the presentation with audio-visual materials and handouts were emphasized as important ways to increase participant interest, comprehension, and acceptance.
It stands to reason that the more familiar you are with the subject of the presentation, the more confident you will be in yourself and the more effective you will be in reaching your participants. What you include in your presentation should be a combination of several things:
· material contained in the essay that makes up Part I of each handbook,
· your own ideas and experiences about the subject, and
· culture-specific anecdotes, illustrations, and incidents, whenever possible, to add realism and local colour.
Reduce your presentation to notes written on cards, numbered consecutively to prevent mix-ups. Don't memorize your material. But, don't read it either. Practice your presentation until you feel comfortable using your notes as an occasional reference rather than a script.
Be flexible about staying within the time alloted for your presentation. The decision to adjust the programme to be longer or shorter is up to you with the concurrence of your participants. If you say everything that needs to be said in less time than is shown on the schedule, ask some questions to be sure you have got your points across successfully. If you have, stop. Don't repeat yourself. If you find, instead, that it is taking you longer than planned to finish your presentation, it is possible that you are being overly repetitive. You may be losing the interest of your participants. On the other hand, if a stimulating discussion is going on, and you think this is contributing to workshop objectives, let it continue. Just remember that you will have to make up the time somewhere else in the workshop.
Finally, we would like to offer several tips for successful presentations that will be useful to you in conducting workshops.
· Avoid using cliches, jargon, or "buzzwords" that are familiar to you but may not be understood by your participants.
· Watch out for distractions that could break your participants' concentration such as jingling coins in your pocket or leaving unrelated materials on a flipchart.
· Maintain eye contact with participants in all parts of the room.
· Announce two-minute stretch breaks occasionally when you sense that participants might need them.
· Restate essential points frequently to reinforce the continuity of your material and to aid comprehension.
· Use pauses to emphasise important points or to encourage participants to offer questions or ideas of their own.
· Avoid distracting body language like shifting your weight from side to side, pacing back and forth excessively, folding or unfolding your arms, or stationing yourself behind a podium. Stand when making your presentation and position yourself, as much as possible, to avoid having tables, the podium, or other objects between you and your participants.
· Face your participants at all times. Even when writing on a flipchart or chalk board, stand on the side of the writing surface nearest the hand with which you are doing the writing. In other words, don't carry on a conversation with the flipchart.
· During breaks, move materials or equipment, review the schedule for the next segment of the workshop, and be available to talk with participants. However, don't let these conversations prevent you from starting on time after the break.
· Avoid language, jokes, or stories that might offend anyone attending the workshop.
The 11-workshop series consists of many exercises all designed to help workshop participants discover role-relevant knowledge for themselves. This means you will frequently have to give directions or instructions. If participants don't know what is expected of them in an exercise or if they feel what they are being asked to do makes no sense, the learning process will be impaired.
Most authorities on giving instructions agree on a powerful principle - begin the instruction by giving participants a rationale for the task or exercise. When participants know why they are being asked to do something, they will be far more interested in learning how. Beginning with the rationale, giving good instructions can be viewed as a simple, four-step process.
Introduce the exercise by giving a rationale. This should include the objective of the exercise and anything else you might add to help participants see the importance of the exercise from their point of view. In giving the rationale for a role-playing exercise, for example you might say, A role is not like a part in a play in which you are trying to act like someone else. When you play a role in a role-playing exercise, you are just being yourself - doing just what you would see yourself doing, acting just as you would act if you found yourself in this kind of situation. By just being yourself in the role, you get a first hand experience that will help you should you be faced with a situation like this back home.
Explain the task. Describe what participants will be doing. Usually the task of a small group is to produce a product. Use active verbs to describe the product such as, "list the three most important ... " or "describe an incident in which you were involved that ... " Make the transition from the rationale for the task to the explanation as smoothly as possible. For example, you might continue from your rationale for a role playing exercise by saying, "To help you get into your role, read the background situation in your handbook and read the description of the role you have volunteered to play. "
Specify the context. It is important for participants to know the limits of the task before they begin - who they will be working with, under what conditions and for how long. The context of the exercise spells out how they will be accomplishing the task. Most of the activity called for by the various workshops in the Elected Leadership series is done in small groups. The optimum number for each small group is usually specified at some point in the exercise description. To specify the context for a role-playing exercise, you might say, "You are the spokesperson for your citizen group. You are competing with two other groups for a large sum of money which the town council has been given for this purpose. In 15 minutes, you will be asked to enter the council room and present to the town council your group's reasons for believing that the council should allocate a large sum of money to your group. You will have access to a flipchart and will have five minutes to make your presentation. "
Reporting. The task of reporting begins when individuals or members of a small group have completed an assigned task. Reporting adds greatly to the learning value of an exercise. The purpose of reporting is not just to explain what happened. Instead, the purpose is to advance the process of learning - by allowing participants to share their experiences with one another, hopefully enabling them to expand, integrate and generalize learning from their individual or small group experiences. This reporting activity is sometimes called "sharing" or "processing." For example, a small group about to begin a task might be told, 'Appoint someone as a timekeeper to keep track of the time remaining. Also, choose a spokesperson who should be ready to share your list of ideas with other groups on a chartpad when you return to the plenary session. "
You may give most of your instructions orally. Sometimes, however, it is useful to provide participants with a handout containing the instructions. They can even be written on a flipchart or displayed on an overhead transparency. This method is particularly useful when a task is complicated or has several parts.
After giving a group of workshop participants their instructions for a small group task you can take it easy - read a magazine or something until they report back. If you think this is right, then you have more thinking to do. When participants are busy at the tasks you have assigned them, you need to be busy keeping track of how their work is progressing. We call this monitoring. It is important for two reasons:
· It gives you feedback on how well participants know what they are supposed to be doing and how committed they are to the task. If you sense confusion, misdirection, or misinterpretation in a group, this may be your cue to restate the task, perhaps by paraphrasing the original instructions or augmenting them with an example.
· It helps you to adjust the time needed for the task. Even the best, most thoroughly field-tested workshop design will require some adjustments in the amount of time it takes to complete certain tasks. Each participant group is different. Therefore, your concern should be with assuring a small group enough time for the exercise to gain the most learning value for its members.
When you have given small groups their instructions, stand quietly and wait until they have convened and have gotten underway on the task. Then you can relax briefly and spend a few minutes preparing for the next activity. After a few minutes, circulate to find out how things are going. Enter the work area quietly, being careful not to interrupt. If you are asked questions, and you usually will be, answer them briefly. If one small group's questions suggest there may be confusion in the other groups, then interrupt the others and re-phrase appropriate parts of the task for all of them.
As the groups proceed with the task, there are several questions about their activities that you may want to answer:
· How have the participants arranged themselves? Is this arrangement conducive to participation by all the members or are some participants isolated?
· Are there any changes in the noise level in the group? These changes may indicate that a group has finished its task or rather that it is getting down to work.
· From little pieces of conversations or words being used, do participants seem to be working on the task or are they engaged in idle conversation? If participants are discussing matters unrelated to the task, they may be finished or they may be avoiding the task.
· How much time is left? From the amount of work that has been done, are participants behind, ahead, or on schedule? If time is running out but participants are still working intently, it may be more desirable to give them more time. When you notice that some groups are finished and others are not, you might offer a time check - "You have two minutes left," for example. State whatever amount of time you think it will take for all the groups to finish without creating a lot of down time for groups that have already completed their tasks.
By reporting, we do not mean a detailed, "this is what we did during our meeting" recital. Rather, the term "reporting" is intended to mean a sort of disclosure or revelation, a way of sharing the most important observations and conclusions of the time spent by a small group on a task.
Logistics are an important aspect of facilitating small group reporting. If you have made it clear that small group reports will be expected, the issue of selecting a spokesperson will probably take care of itself. You can appoint someone or leave it to the group to select someone as its spokesperson. The first time that small groups are used there may be some confusion, so it may be best to appoint someone ahead of time. Leave it to the group to make its own selection when its members become more familiar with the process.
Time is also an issue in reporting - it can be very time-consuming. One way to control the time is by restricting the reports in some way. For example, you can have each group report two or three items from its list rather than to take the time to report every item. Another approach to reporting is to have each small group examine and report on a different aspect of the same topic. Finally, where small groups have been working on the same task and some kind of synthesis or consensus is needed, a polling procedure can be used. One way to poll a plenary session consisting of several small groups is to have each small group place its recommendations on a sheet of newsprint which is posted for all to see. When all the sheets are posted and reviewed, participants can be asked to choose one of the recommendations and asked to give their reasons for choosing as they did.
Three skills are required to facilitate the reporting process effectively:
1. Asking initiating and clarifying questions
To help initiate and clarify group reports, you need to be able to ask direct, but not leading, questions. These should be open-ended questions, usually beginning with what, when, where, how, or why, such as, "What are the implications of this method for your councillor role"?
This is important to be sure you are actually hearing what the participant meant you to hear. Your objective is to convince the participant that you are listening and that you are eager to know if you have heard correctly. For example, if someone reports that, "Councillors have difficulty doing the right thing," you might paraphrase or restate what you heard for clarification by saying, "You mean councillors know the right thing to do but often find it difficult to get it implemented. "
While paraphrasing is meant to mirror the meaning with a change of words, summarizing is to synthesize or condense a report to its essentials. The intent, once again, is to test for understanding. Efforts by a trainer to summarize or boil down information to its essentials might begin with phrases like:
"In other words .... "
"If I understand what you are saying, you mean ...."
"In summary, then, you feel ...."
This information has been included in the guide to help you be more successful in the actual delivery of training. While success can't be guaranteed, there are some things you can do to improve the odds. Among these are being more flexible in delivering information, more precise in giving instructions, more available and less intrusive in monitoring small group activities, and getting more mileage out of small group reporting.