7 Steps to Setting up a Training Exercise (or how to herd cats well)
You would think setting up an exercise with a group of co-operative adults on a training course would be easy. However this is a skill that trainers need to learn to ensure the smooth running of a training course. This is something that people new to training can so easily get wrong and end up with what feels like herding cats.
- Tell the training group the purpose of the exercise that you are going to ask them to do and give an overview of it e.g. this is a case study to examine how supervision is a key tool in staff development.
- Explain the task carefully and fully. Tell the training group exactly what you want them to do e.g. read the case study first, then discuss each of the three questions below the case study and discuss and answer each one in light of your own past experience. Write up the key points, as agreed by the group on to the flipchart paper. Then give an example of the sort of thing you are wanting them to discuss.
- Next tell them how they are going to run this exercise e.g. how many participants are going to be in each group and how they are going to get into these groups, e.g. you will count them into groups / you have decided on groups and written it on the flipchart / they can choose who to work with etc. Then tell them where the exercise is going to take place, maybe you are using break out rooms, or if you want them in groups in the training room point out the spaces where you want them to congregate especially if you want them away from the tables. However if there is a lot of writing to be done on flipchart paper consider putting each group around a table even if that means moving furniture. Tell them how long the exercise is going to take. Then get them into the groups. Stand up and direct them. Never leave, even a group of adults to get into smaller groups. It’s surprising how difficult they can make the process!
- Now you have them seated in groups give out the case studies or whatever paperwork they need for the exercise. State a time for them to read it e.g. you have 5 minutes to read the case study.
- Then officially start the exercise, as you want all the groups to be working on the same timescale. First give a brief recap of what you want them to do, what you want the results of the exercise to be, how they will record this and how they will feedback their findings to the rest of the group. Tell them the actual time and tell them how long they have to complete the exercise and what the actual finish time will be. Put the key points on to a flipchart or display on a PowerPoint slide so the groups can refer back to it at any time during the exercise.
- Whilst the activity is in progress observe the groups. Look out for any group / individual not starting the exercise or not being sure what to do. Observe body language looking for anyone who is disengaged, bored, difficult etc. Only intervene in a group if they ask you a question or you feel they are not working well together or are being side tracked. The key is to keep everyone working at the same pace so the groups will complete the exercise at very nearly the same time.
- Make sure you take the feedback from the groups on their findings from the exercise in a way that doesn’t bore the other groups. If each group is likely to come up with the same answers to each question, then ask one group to feedback on question 1 and another group to feedback on question 2 etc.; or use a market place techniques, displaying the flipcharts on the walls and get participants to circulate and read them; use the snowball technique, circulating the flipchart sheets to each group and asking them to mark any points for further discussion as they get each sheet; or take 2 keys points from each group. There are lots of different ways of taking feedback without repeating in the big group all that has been said in the smaller groups.