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  • Irina Ketkin, author of #adventuresofthelearner

What I Know About Training - Groups

I am working on a project that allowed me to take stock of things I've learned in my years as a Learning and Development professional. And obviously, a big part in my growth has been training sessions. So I've decided to dedicate several posts to what I know about training.

The thing that seems to be coming up over and over again is how important it is to work in a group. And I will start with some of the benefits of group learning as well as how I have translated this into classroom activities.

  • We learn from each other. Working together on a common problem is great for bouncing ideas off others and building on them. Listening to others' experiences and opinions can also lead you to great new ideas you can apply in your day-to-day. Activity: After any activity or game, do a review. I particularly like the 4F's created by Roger Greenaway. It helps makes sense of what happened but also allows learners share their personal experiences which often differ from person to person.

  • Networking. Meeting people you wouldn't normally meet widens your horizons. This is especially true in companies like, where teams are spread over several locations and time zones. After meeting other people in the business you might be able to ask them for help, where before you wouldn't even know that, say, an expert in the field, even existed. Activity: I like nice and active icebreakers. But not just anything that will leave you breathless before the session has even begun. It has to be tied to the topic AND introduce people. Here's an easy one - have everyone stand in a circle, toss a ball at a random person and ask them to share their name/title and whatever information is relevant for the course, then continue around the circle. If you're feeling mischievous, after the first round, ask the person catching the ball to repeat what the person throwing the ball has said.

  • Moral support. We sometimes feel so alone in our day-to-day challenges that it really helps to know that other people face very similar problems. Even if they cannot give you answers to your particular conundrum, they might be able to offer comfort in the thought you're not alone. Activity: Apart from doing active reviewing at the end, some topics are better left to a simple old fashion discussion. Allow for those and facilitate them carefully.

  • Increase self-awareness. Working in isolation can be hard for a number of reasons. In my humble opinion, one of those reasons is not getting any immediate feedback. Now, let's say you go on a course that requires you to work on a problem together and all of a sudden people start saying how creative you are, or how quickly you think on your feet, or (insert whatever feedback you'd like to receive here!). Or if you don't receive any particular feedback yourself but you hear other people's comments, it might make you think you want to be know for those qualities as well. Activity: this would very much depend on the activity itself. But whatever you do, build in some mid-way checkpoints where people can give and receive feedback. Alternatively, simply facilitate small check-ins as the activity is progressing.

  • Build problem solving and creative thinking skills. Any time we work with others, we encounter other personalities and mind sets. Sometimes that can be a cause for negative conflicts, but more often than not, it gives you ideas of how you can change your own mindset and way of working.Activity: what type of activity you use will entirely depend on the topic at hand. I've found most useful role-plays that encourage you to be someone else or step into someone else's shoes.

  • Practice leadership skills. This one is a bit particular. There are those who are natural leaders (though some researchers may disagree with me) and those that would rather sit back and follow. But a good training activity should encourage people to give their "leadership juices" flowing. Activity: Any sort of game that requires getting from point A to point B as a team would have a hidden role for the leader. Whether than person emerges naturally or has to be appointed depends entirely on you, the group and the topic.

  • Have fun! Anytime you are in a positive state of mind, everything seems so much easier to accomplish. Including tackling the most difficult of problems. So I will not put a specific activity here, as it is so versatile and depends on so many things (most of all you as a facilitator and trainer) that it is hard to quantify it with just one thing. But what you need to aim for is to create that "feel-good factor" (use humour, arrange the room, be positive and about a million other things).

There are a number of other great benefits I can include in the list above.

I'd love to hear from you! What are some of the great team activities you have participated in as part of a training? What were the benefits for you?

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