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Workshop design - Have I forgotten anything?
Whatever the reason for a workshop or workshop series, its topic, setting, the general shape and tactics you have chosen for it, it is likely to prove much more successful if the logistics are well organised. Below is a checklist that you can adapt for your own situation so that you don’t forget anything important. It includes the sorts of things that a ‘Fly in Fly out’ teacher educator will need to remember too. So, if you are not one of those, just strip out these chores and be happy that you are staying home!
Before the workshop
- Try to find out as much as possible about the history, geography, climate, clothing, language, politics and social context of the place you will be giving the workshop in.
- Liaise with your host. Double check all travel, visa, accommodation, insurance, currency, expenses, float, meeting and contact arrangements.
- Arrange your fees and the time and manner of payment.
- Get as much background information about the participants as you can e.g. their number, ages, levels they teach, experience, training, their most recent training experience. How well do they know each other? Do you know any of them? Was it their idea to have a workshop?
- Find out what you can about the venue e.g. how much space you will have for plenaries, milling and breaking out into group work, and how coffee and lunch breaks can be serviced. How will the chairs be arranged? Are there enough toilets? A space outside for smokers? Fire exits?
- How is the workshop topic to be chosen? Any participant questionnaires or letters to write and circulate? Is the topic something you feel you can contribute to or is it better to pass the content to others?
- What time is available before, during and after the workshop? Can you turn up early to check out the room and the equipment?
- Choose activities suitable for the topic and the participants.
- Make a draft session plan and time it. Your plan can be in any form that helps you; a mind map, a flow chart, a timeline. Make sure your workshop plan is extremely flexible to allow for late arrivals, overlong introductions by the host, house administration, or last-minute cuts in the workshop time by the host. Leave some empty spaces for the unexpected. Figure out what you can cut if time runs short.
- What will you do if/when the technology breaks down?
- Go through your plan to consider if it is what you have been asked to provide. Is it interesting? Does it contain whatever is important for you (e.g. sparkle, creativity, depth, congruence, movement ….).
- Talk the plan over with a trusted colleague to see if they feel it is relevant, varied, interesting and useful.
- Draft invitations to the workshop. Do you have a lower or upper limit on the number of participants? Do you require RSVPs?
- Do you have tried and tested materials you can use? Do you need to adapt them for the new workshop? Prepare or collect other materials, e.g. name badges, display surfaces, coloured paper, handouts, multimedia presentations, music, interesting objects, feedback questionnaires etc.
- Do you need a noise maker for stopping group work?
- If you need other people to contribute somehow, decide on who to involve, what their role is going to be and what they could do (e.g. technical support, help with registration, co-presenter, chair). Invite them to co-operate and give any support necessary for them to feel comfortable and confident. Prepare to run the workshop with them if they turn up and are prepared, and without their contributions just in case they can’t come or forget to prepare
- Think about the feedback you want to get from the participants during and after the workshop. Prepare the materials for gathering it.
- Check whether there are any local demands to record the session, any pro forma feedback sheets.
- Decide your own policy on use of mobile phones, tablets, photos and video recording.
- Set up a Twitter hash tag?
- Check with local helpers and make sure they see to everything you need for the workshop (e.g. stable internet connection? Technical support? Tea urns?).
- When travelling take all your workshop notes, one presentable blouse/shirt and your target addresses in your hand luggage in case your bag goes astray and you have to do the workshop without its contents!
- How will you gather participants’ contact information, with their permission, so you can all contact one another before and after?
- Have you been asked for a workshop title, abstract or summary, agenda, bio data, pre-reading list, blog post, tweets?
After the workshop
Remember to collect feedback sheets before you leave. Take copies if necessary.
Summarise the content of the workshop and send the files to the participants and the host.
Remember to promote contact among the participants via discussion forums, blogs, e-mails, follow-up sessions and so on.
Consider co-writing an article about the session with some of the participants.
Having kept all receipts, claim your expenses, fees, etc.
Send a thank-you to the host and school personnel who helped you.
Write any reports, blog posts etc required.
The January Trainers (2008) A checklist for organising and running a teachers’ workshop. The Teacher Trainer Vol 22 No 2 pp 4-5 Pilgrims
Stanfield, B (2002) The Workshop Book: From Individual Creativity to Group Action. New Society Publishers
About the author
Tessa Woodward is an ELT consultant, teacher, and teacher trainer. She has trained teachers in Japan, Switzerland, the UK, USA, and in many European countries. She is the founder editor of The Teacher Trainer journal (Pilgrims), Past President and International Ambassador of IATEFL and founded the IATEFL Special Interest Group for Teacher Trainers (now the SIG T Ed/TT). She is the author of many books and articles for language teachers and teacher trainers. Tessa is also the founder of The Fair List.