In September I ran 2 (identical) workshops for one of my main clients. One of the topics we were covering was Conflict management. It’s not my strongest subject to cover, so during the design phase I spent a lot of time researching different theories and models to get myself up to date.
None of the models or theories jumped out at me as being particularly relevant for my client and the likely conflict situations my delegates would find themselves in.
So I did something I would never normally do… I DIDN’T design part of this section of the workshop.
As someone who ALWAYS designs in detail (I figure it’s better to give the trainer more than they need than not enough – even when that trainer is me) I felt nervous about this.
Just to clarify – I didn’t leave a hole full of nothingness: I did include a section on exploring what conflict is, what causes it and created some bespoke case studies/role plays to explore the practical side of conflict resolution. What I DIDN’T do was prescribe HOW conflict should be resolved.
Instead, I asked delegates to complete their own independent research into conflict resolution as pre-course work, and they shared their own learning with each other. It worked amazingly well, and 4 pretty impressive processes were created by the groups based on their research and discussions. (see below)
The feedback was that this was one of the most useful parts of the workshop.
It really bought home to me that if we give mature learners the time, resources, and permission to learn, and just enough instruction to set them off in the right direction, they will do amazing things.
Of course, it could have been a total disaster if no-one had done the independent pre-course work. But I know these people well by now. I knew they would do it, and do it properly so in reality, the risk was low. Of course, I had no way of knowing what would come out of the session, so I had to be prepared to facilitate whatever resulted from the exercise, which was good for me too.
As a learning designer, I need to take into account the maturity of their audience whenever I can. A more mature group can cope with less direction and take more responsibility for their own learning: A less mature group needs closer direction and management throughout their learning experience. Sadly, as an external provider I don’t always know where people are on the scale of learning maturity (it has nothing to do with age or seniority) so I can’t make assumptions.
That’s why I tend to design in detail and provide options – better to provide everything and then be able to take a more relaxed approach, than assuming you have a mature group, but find you need to structure things a lot more.
And the 4 models that were produced were…