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One crucial question of cooperative learning is how to find out what the current needs of our participants are and how to satisfy them in the most suitable way. In every training or session, there are many expectations and needs at play. They are sometimes stated explicitly, but often they are hidden from a facilitator, and sometimes even hidden from the other participants.

All needs are important. Specific interest in a topic or a learning style is one example, but there are very personal needs as well. For example, one participant might want to focus on his place in the group hierarchy, whereas another emphasizes a wish to present her ideas in a group. You can help participants grow more aware of these issues by providing time and space to reflect on their needs and how they might be addressed.

Facilitators take participants’ needs seriously by...

  • Relating to others in a personable way
  • Adjusting the methods and the plan according to participants’ wishes
  • Letting the group decide and accepting their decisions
  • Appreciating the participants’ resources
  • Explaining their needs as facilitators
  • Making learning steps and goals transparent

One great opportunity to tailor your seminar to your participants is to create the program together. If this is not possible, you might give participants a chance to review the program beforehand and to influence the program design. This style of planning also shows an appreciative attitude as a facilitator and helps your participants to feel like co-owners of the training. But this all depends on more than just an encouraging attitude. Concrete signals are also required: Respond to comments or ideas and show your willingness to reconsider planning because of the feedback you received. If for some reason you are not including the feedback you’ve received, you can explain why you chose something different. Be open to negotiation. In the end this makes your training better attuned to the particular group you are working with. Everybody's satisfaction with the training will increase accordingly.



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E. Heublein, N. Zimmermann

Holistic Learning

Second Handbook for Facilitators: Read more


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