6 ways to get greater group involvement

Keeping a training group engaged for 5 days

Have you ever had a passive group of learners who have been told to turn up rather than self-selecting into the learning opportunity? Or the energy in the group of very low. Or the group are used to being lectured to, rather than participating and being responsible for their own learning. This is every trainers nightmare. The risk in these situations is that we often end up trying harder than the group does itself. When this occurs we are doing the work for the group which isn’t good for them or for us. We are left tired and often doubting our abilities. Below are six methods for getting group involvement quickly in the session and maintaining that involvement throughout.

  1.  Learning buddies. This involves simply pairing group participants and giving them an overall challenge for the session. For example in a group of 10 participants that works out five tasks for the session. These tasks are generally set around the content of the session with the learning buddies having to report back either throughout or at the end about what they have discovered during the session.
  2. Set expectations early. If a participatory culture is not established early in the session, then the group itself will make the decision about the level of involvement it is willing to make. While being mindful of different levels of comfort and sharing within a group, creating an opportunity for appropriate self-disclosure within the first 10 minutes is critical. This can be as simple as two things that you want to get out of the session today.
  3. Expect responses. Unless I hear from the group what they are thinking about a particular issue, then I have no idea of the relevance of the material we are working with, to the group participants. I am not in favour of doing the group round as this can be quite tiresome. Have group members share when they are ready but set the expectation that they will. I do expect to hear one or two ideas from each group member.
  4. Let the group come to us. This is linked to the above point so rather than asking each person by name to feedback, I will make this much more invitational. For example I might say, ”Who’s are we going to hear back from first?”, then, “Whose next?” And so forth.
  5. Create competency. One mistake many facilitators often make is that they ask far too generalised questions to group members who often don’t know where to start. I have found it particularly useful to frame questions that allow participants to respond within their competency. For example I might ask, “What is one way you have found helpful to deal with this issue?
  6. Question cards. Scatter small cards and pens around the group. If a question comes up as the session progresses and is not appropriate to ask at the particular time, then the participant writes the question on a card to ask at a later point in session.

Of course there are many other strategies on developing engagement within the session, for example, panel discussions, subgroup activity, large group discussion, et cetera. I’m sure that you have your own way to really get to group moving. Love to hear them.

Published on Wednesday, March 28th, 2012, under Learning & development, Practice tips and techniques

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