|Trainer's Guide for Training of Elected Officials (HABITAT)|
|Part II - Getting prepared for elected leadership training|
In this section we will be discussing some general considerations to guide you in customizing the councillor training you do based on the general workshop designs contained in the 12 handbooks on Training for Elected Leadership.
1. Keep them busy
In designing a workshop for councillors it is important to avoid having a passive group of participants. Have something for them to do all the time. In a presentation, stress that they work hard at being active listeners. In an exercise, be sure that each participant has something to do or think about that contributes to his or her own development within that particular council role. In other words, make it clear that each workshop participant is responsible for managing his or her own learning and, then, give them ample opportunity to act out that responsibility through participation.
2. Balance and sequencing
The arrangement of exercises and presentation should proceed naturally from the more known to the less known, from the less complex to the more complex, from the less interactive to the more interactive. Moreover, every component of the workshop should contribute to the attainment of workshop goals. Even the tea breaks, meals, and free times should be placed strategically in anticipation of subsequent exercises (e.g., schedule an intensive, highly interactive group exercise immediately after a meal to avoid the mental and physical sluggishness that could accompany a presentation). It is important also to have the same theme running throughout all the components of a workshop as a basis for learning continuity. The various workshops that make up the 12 handbooks are designed with learning continuity in mind.
Every effort possible has been made to provide councillor-relevent materials in the various handbooks. This is vital inasmuch as the content of a workshop will have genuine learning value only to the extent that it parallels the kinds of leadership concerns and problems that councillors ordinarily face in their work. As an aim in furthering the relevancy of these materials, several of the exercises have been designed to gather on-the-spot data from councillors about their own experiences. Participants, in several instances, are asked to pair up or, in small groups, to gather data about a topic central to the workshop. These concerns may be compiled on a sheet of newsprint and even rank ordered according to urgency, importance, or other considerations. In several instances, participants are asked to perform independent rank ordering, establish their own points of view, and then, in small groups, to develop a consensus ranking of the material. Questionnaires employing checklists, rating scales, and open-ended questions are used to gather individual data for comparison with small group and even total group results. You can take advantage of these data collection devices to help participants process data and to take responsibility for analysing the results, perhaps as a group self-portrait.
As mentioned previously, it is imperative that everything possible be done to encourage the transfer of learning from the workshop environment to the realworld working life of councillors. Processing is an important key to successful learning transfer. By processing we are referring to efforts made to talk through and interpret data arising from a training event. It is imperative that you as a trainer provide sufficient opportunity for participants to sort out and share reactions to what they have been experiencing. This cannot be overemphasized. Processing data can be encouraged in several ways:
· You can use observers to report on the process or outcome of an exercise.
· You can ask participants to serve as consultants to one another to stimulate thinking and problem solving.
· You can divide the participant group into several smaller groups for rapid processing of data and structured so that reporters give a brief synopsis to the total group of what occurred during the small group discussion.
· You can encourage back-home application by having participants contract with one another to do various things on return from the workshop, hopefully supported with planned follow-through as described earlier.
We have already stressed the importance of avoiding boredom and passivity by keeping people involved. On the other hand, you might design a workshop that moves at such breakneck speed that participants leave with an information overload. Time is needed during the workshop to give participants a chance to sort out what they have been learning. Free time is needed to give participants an escape from the heavy cognitive demands of the workshop.
At times things can begin to drag in a workshop. When this happens, you can point out your observation and ask for confirmation from participants. Sometimes a simple ventilation exercise (e.g., on a scale of one to five, with five being high and one being low, how do you feel about the way things are going right now?) is a useful way to get participant feedback on their feelings individually and as a group. In other words, the pace of events in a workshop should be dictated by evidence of fatigue or boredom, the necessity to provide plenty of time for processing data, and the need to get responsible and accurate feedback on the process from the participants themselves.
Each of the workshops in the series is introduced with an objective for the exercise. Achieving these objectives should guide you as you introduce and facilitate the various exercises that make up each of the workshops. It is also important to help participants clarify the relation between these stated objectives and their own reasons for wanting to master the content of a workshop.
An important trainer value is to stimulate participants to exercise more freedom in thought and action than may be customary for them. A demonstration of this value during the workshop is to avoid doing anything to force anyone to take part in any activity that would cause them to feel threatened or intimidated. This is particularly true if people are attending a workshop involuntarily or with strong reservations. It is important for you as the trainer to be sensitive to the feelings and needs of all participants and not to expect participants to involve themselves with equal enthusiasm in every single activity.
While each of the workshops in the handbook series has been designed so that it can be presented without modification, this does not mean that we intend them to be used this way. Quite the contrary. We want you to look for and consider any design modification that would cause the workshop to reflect more accurately the learning needs of a particular group of elected leaders. This is particularly true when you are asked to custom design workshops for councillors who serve on the same council, councillors who may have teamwork as one of their goals - learning how to get along better with each other. In other words, we want you to consider more than one design option for each workshop learning objective; in fact, we want you to view this as a personal goal anytime you are engaged in the design of training activities.