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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...

  • 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
  • Relating to others in a personable way

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 and develop co-ownership of the training. This all depends on more than just an encouraging attitude. Give concrete signals: Respond to comments or ideas and show your willingness to reconsider planning. 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.


Needs are the requirements which learners have in order to be able to work toward achievements.


They are different to expectations - the sum of results or achievements which participants intend to reach on different levels.

Both need to be considered.

Elke Heublein

Co-founder of Working Between Cultures. Co-author of Holistic learning. Facilitator since 2004, certified intercultural facilitator (Institute for Intercultural Communikation, LMU München) and trainer (IHK Akademie München/Westerham), adult education (Foundation University Hildesheim). Focus: Cooperation and leadership in heterogenouos teams, higher education, train-the-trainer.

Holistic Learning


Planning experiential, inspirational and participatory learning processes in non-formal education.


Also interesting:

Our Handbooks Holistic-learning-book-cover.png

E. Heublein, N. Zimmermann

Holistic Learning

Second Handbook for Facilitators: Read more