The Teacher Trainer Diaries: Workshop planning

I used to find workshop planning a little daunting – now I love the process. I am lucky enough to be in a position in which I work with teachers who want to run their first workshop, and I get to mentor them through the whole process (through which I learn so much as well!). I thought I’d put together a very short post on the processes I go through when planning a workshop (and the process I share/do with my teachers) in the hope that it provides some support to all you teachers out there who want to take on their first training session.

Identify the need

I’m not really a fan of running a workshop for the sake of it – I much prefer it when there is a need, and then a workshop has been created to meet that need. So, before I even get into the planning phase, I identify a need. This can be done through numerous approaches – here are some of my favourite:

  • Looking at co-constructed action points
  • Asking teachers themselves
  • Conducting snapshot (really short) observations
  • Looking at critical incidents
  • Looking at feedback from teachers
  • Looking at feedback from managers
  • Looking at feedback from parents/students

The reality is that a decent needs analysis should take a number of data points and triangulate needs. Of course, this may not always be possible, and the fact of the matter is that at many conferences, you don’t know who the teachers are going to be! This being said, in my context (INSET within a private language academy), a needs analysis is certainly possible. Check out some points I made about identifying needs here!

Brainstorm and mind map

I’m a big brainstorming mind mapper (never called myself that before, but hey – there’s a first for everything!). So, I get a piece of paper and start drawing/writing my thoughts down. For the latest workshop I’ve been working on, this was my first mind map:

As you can see, very basic. From here, I generally create another mind map, but in the shape of a ‘pathway’ of sorts, working from the start of the workshop to the end. Here is an example:

This second mind map helps me see how all the parts come together. Sometimes I draw the complete pathway, and then go back and erase things, add more things, write more information, etc. This time, I didn’t have to do that as I had everything pretty clear in my head. This being said, sometimes things change in the writing of the session plan.

Write the session plan

Now, I move from paper to computer, and work with a session template. I write in my stages and procedure, and then as I am writing I try to visualize myself in the session with teachers, listening to them work, ask questions, etc. This visualisation helps me understand how long each stage is likely to take, and this is where my second mind map is likely to change – usually I include too many things, and in the writing phase I cut some things out.

As I am writing, I also then see where I need materials, and I then create them as a work. Creating these materials also helps me see if my timing are good, or if I really am hitting what I want to hit with my stage aims. I find that this takes me a little while, but it’s quite beneficial to the whole process.

I suppose I should mention that I have a few things that I will always aim to include, no matter the session focus. These for me are:

Take a step back

Before my session, I always come back to my plan, usually a couple of days after I’ve finished writing it. I find taking a break from working on it, and having had time to work through the workshop again mentally gives me new perspectives on how it might turn out. I often make small changes before the workshop, or take notes on possible learning affordances that I feel might arise.

What about you?

I could spend all day talking about training and preparing workshops, but I thought I’d keep this one short and simple. I’d love to hear what you think – could this process help you in planning your first workshop? Or, maybe you’re a teacher educator with your own process is – I’d love to hear what steps you take!

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