Learning Activities provide opportunities for participants to engage with the material or with each other in an active way. These are spread throughout the curriculum and take many different forms. If time limits require that portions of the training be cut, trainers should make every effort to include as many of the Learning Activities as possible. They are as essential to the mastery of the field as the lecture topics.
The most common form of activity in this curriculum is the use of discussion questions. With 25 participants or less, presenters can choose to engage the entire group in discussion, or break the group down into smaller groups. (With more than 25, a large group discussion can be unwieldy and inadequate to the goals of the Learning Activities.) There are advantages and disadvantages to each.
With a single group, the presenter can:
- moderate the discussion,
- dispel any misinformation that comes up, and
- maintain a clear sense of how well the group is absorbing the new information and ideas.
- allow everyone greater opportunities to participate (a plus for people who resist talking in large groups),
- but can allow myths and misinformation to be reinforced unless a knowledgeable facilitator is available to work with each group.
The disadvantages of small groups can be reduced by having the trainer rotate from group to group to answer questions. You might want to consider recruiting more experienced participants to facilitate each small group, if training staff are not available to fulfill this role.
These pedagogical issues have a practical side as well.
- Is the room arranged to allow for small group discussions (around tables, for example)?
- Or will participants have to get up and move to other rooms each time?
- Will you want the same groups throughout each Section?
- Will you want different groups ?
Presenters are encouraged to think through the logistics of the Learning Activities in advance of each Section, because in some cases where time or space is limited, it may be beneficial to combine the interactive portions into fewer activities rather than spread them throughout the session.
Another consideration for the Learning Activities is the composition of small groups. If the participants are mixed in terms of their levels of knowledge, experience, and field of practice or expertise, trainers should consider whether small groups should be mixed or should attempt to group similar participants together. Again, there are advantages and disadvantages to both.
In a mixed group,
- less knowledgeable participants can learn from the more knowledgeable ones, and
- cross-disciplinary groups can mirror the kinds of management teams and sharing of perspectives that the curriculum encourages.
With more homogenous groups, like groups of more experienced participants or practitioners of the same discipline,
- discussions may go more deeply more quickly because of shared assumptions,
- but groups of less experienced professionals will need more guidance.
Trainers may want to consider using both options at different times throughout the curriculum.