For the successful begin of a learning process, we suggest to keep three standard building blocks in mind. Some needs assessment is suggested, then an activity on personalities, expectations, and expertise. Before starting with more in-depth work, the common principles of cooperation need to be clarified together or made transparent by the facilitator.
Needs & Expectations
At the beginning of a seminar or unit, start with the needs of participants, institutions and facilitators. Our opportunity is to make the seminar tailored to the participants' and stakeholders' needs and to agree about the common learning experience.
Another basic issue is to shape the ground for good collaboration. A space for deep and holistic learning requires trust, transparency and the cooperation of all people involved. This includes the basic rules or working principles, with a collective negotiation of these rules, and also learning names through "name games".
You’ve already learned a lot about your participants by discussing their needs and basic working principles. It is essential to a good working atmosphere that both the trainer and the participants know everyone’s names and the correct pronunciation. The deeper sense behind these name games is that learners may interconnect independently of the teacher, and that they build trust, which is a precondition for deeper experiential learning later on.
Personalities, Beliefs, and Expertise of Your Participants
Trainers and participants start the seminar with very different expectations and requirements. Therefore, in addition to a needs assessment, it is also necessary for all the people involved to share their field expertise, their specific interests, and their knowledge at the beginning of the training. It is also important to learn about your group’s learning styles and goals. Tools like Democracy Scrabble illuminate on a topic from many different perspectives. They encourage discussion and help cluster words or aspects as a good introduction to work on a complicated topic. The term “democracy” can be replaced by other rich and meaningful terms such as sustainability, mentoring, gender, government...