Friday, December 5, 2008

Facilitating Group Dynamics

I did a couple of workshops for our local Education Day last month. Our individual workshop topics are often (intentionally) broad and designed to attract a wide number and variety of participants. It’s always a challenge to figure out how to convey the most amount of information in a very short period of time.

On the one hand, we’d like to be able to model good teaching strategies and involve our participants as much as possible. On the other, often the quickest way to present information is by using a frontal/lecture approach. And this year, we were given the added challenge: “Make your workshops work for both classroom teachers and youth group workers.” Both are teachers of Jewish kids – one in a formal educational setting; the other in an informal educational setting. My specific charge from the planning committee was – “Do something on classroom management.”

Several of us brainstormed ideas for workshop names (that’s not one of my strong points: naming things) and came up with one in time for the deadline: Facilitating Group Dynamics: Providing a Safe Structure for All Participants

In the past when I’ve taught mixed groups (classroom teachers and youth group workers), I’ve done my same-old-same-old, just periodically remembering to add, “Oh, this works in a youth group setting, too, by the way. All you have to do is….”

I decided this time, if I was going to model how to include both types of learners, I had to use language that 1) was intentionally exclusive; 2) flowed easily; and 3) really was applicable for both situations.

It was harder than I thought it would be.

I could easily identify which words I wanted to remove from my presentation: teacher, student, classroom, texts, principal/ed director, class. I wasn’t so sure what I would substitute – or how I could make the language flow easily instead of awkwardly. I played with a lot of phrases in my mind and was beginning to panic, when I reread the subtitle one more time: Providing a Safe Structure … The light bulb went on: STRUCTURE!

And so, I built an analogy between the structure necessary in order to allow for positive group dynamics in a safe, protected environment….and building a house! Here are some of the comparisons I made:

  • Examine your site => find out about your setting
  • Consult an architect => check in with your program director
  • Subcontract, if necessary => know who your resource people are
  • Build your foundation => identify the key values that will guide your work

In total, I outlined 13 steps, ending with “Give them the keys/Empower group members to be responsible for implementation.”

It ended up being great fun to prepare for the workshop – and the group that participated in the workshop really got into it. One of the best discussions ever! Here are links to .pdf files of both the PowerPoint and the Participant Workbook. Enjoy!

No comments: