Introduction 0.4 - An introduction to facilitating the OER4Schools programme

From OER in Education

Things to consider when facilitating workshops

In the previous chapter (How to use this resource) we introduced a number of important ideas around using this resource in general. In this chapter we look more specifically at facilitating a workshop, i.e. we are looking at a scenario where there may be one or two facilitators, working with a group of teachers (say about 10).

If you have previously facilitated this programme, and you would like to induct others in becoming facilitators, you could also look at the introductory facilitators' workshop.


Participation is a key concept in building communities, in decision making, and in international development. One concept in this is the "5 levels (or stances) of participation".

The "five stances of participation" are:

  • Information
  • Consultation
  • Deciding together
  • Acting together
  • Supporting independent community interests

For further details, see Levels of Participation.

What do you think these might mean? How do these stances relate to interactive pedagogy? Clearly our programme is not just about information and consultation, but it is about deciding and acting together, and supporting teachers in their interests for professional development. And indeed, there is close alignment between the idea of "participation" and modern thinking in education, and with interactive pedagogy in particular.

It is therefore important, that you take a participatory and interactive approach to the workshops. A great resource for running participatory meetings (and making participatory decisions) is the "Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making". The guide illustrates the following characteristics of participatory groups:

  • Everyone participates, not just the vocal few.
  • Participants give each other room to think.
  • Opposing viewpoints are allowed to co-exist, and participants can accurately represent each other's points of view, even when they do not agree with them.
  • Participants pay attention to each other, and the person speaking.
  • Participants refrain from talking behind each other's back.

(Adapted from the "Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making".)

Resources for learning about facilitation

Facilitating participatory workshops (just like interactive teaching) is a skill which you need to practise, and develop over time. To help with workshop facilitation, we are collecting resources for workshop facilitation on this page.

Further resources:

The structure of a workshop session

To help you guide through a workshop session, we now outline the overall structure of workshop sessions. Workshop sessions generally follow this structure:

  • Review of follow up activities. At the beginning of each session, you should review the previous session (if you are running more than one session).
  • Session activitiy 1: e.g. Brainstorm on interactive teaching (new topic)
  • Session activity 2: Brainstorming in the classroom (new topic)
  • Session activity 3: ICT-based activity
  • Session activity 4: Planning
  • Discussion of LfL or MSC
  • Connecting with overarching goals of the programme
  • Agreement of Follow-up activities

Review of follow up activities. The session starts with a review of follow up activities from the previous session. You do not necessarily need to "go round", but you can ask participants how it went, and solicit various inputs. Make sure that you stay on time, and do not use much more than what is allocated.

The learning objectives and success criteria for the current session can now be displayed/introduced. These should be referred to at various stages throughout the session to allow participants to see what progress has been made and how workshop activities relate to the overall goals (objectives) of the session as well has how sessions relate to one another.

Activities within sessions. Each session then has a number of activities, including an ICT-based activity (see below).

Planning activities during the workshop. Some of the session activities are about planning activities for the classroom. It is very important to plan such classroom activities within the session (especially initially) rather than having this just as a follow-up activity.

Connecting with overarching goals of the programme. Each session (from Unit 2 onwards) has got a section called "Connecting with overarching goals of the programme", which is an opportunity to review progress of the overarching goals, as well as to discuss any issues that have arisen. The following text appears towards the end of each session from Unit 2 onwards:

Activity icon.png Open space (10 min). It's now time for the "open space", that gives you an opportunity to discuss issues that have arisen, and to relate those to the broader context of the programme. Do not just gloss over this section, but make time to raise issues, and probe the progress that you are making. You could use this space to:

  • Remind yourselves of the of the Most Significant Change Technique, and e.g. collect more of your stories.
  • Discuss your assessment portfolios: Is there anything that you are unsure about? Is it going well? What could be done better?
  • Check on the work with the classroom assistants: Is this going well? Are there any tensions? Any observations or tips you can share?
  • Reviewing individual ICT practise (such as typing practise).
  • If you are preparing a presentation for other teachers, you could work on the presentation (about what you have been learning, stories emerging from MSC).
  • Remind those who are doing audio diaries, to upload them.
  • You could discuss any other issues that have arisen.

You will find notes and summaries of various techniques and concepts on our reference page, and you might want to refer to those for clarification during this activity if needed.

Agreement of Follow-up activities. At the end of the session, there is a time allocated for agreement of follow-up activities. Note that this is not "setting of homework", but that you should agree with the participants what they are able to do. These follow-up activities are then reviewed at the start of the next session.

When participants start to become familiar with the materials and the way workshop sessions are conducted, the facilitator can start to share the responsibility for preparing the session activities with other participants, so that during the session you can take turns to lead. The facilitator asks at the end of the session whether anybody would like to lead an activity during the next workshop, and makes the relevant facilitator notes available as needed.

Procedural things

Timing. As a workshop facilitator, you should consider how to use the present material, and what form your workshop will take. The resource could be used:

  • in weekly or bi-weekly sessions of say 2 hours each (e.g. teacher group meetings in a school or regular scheduled sessions in a teacher education college)
  • for whole day workshops
  • as a mixture of both

You should negotiate this with the participants. We provide guidance but as a facilitator running a course based on these materials you will need to make your own plan, and evaluate this plan as you progress.

ICT use in the classroom will be introduced in the workshops. Teachers need a basic level of ICT skills, for instance how to type, how to open a web browser and open applications, how to write documents and spreadsheets, etc. If your workshop participants have no prior ICT skills, you need to allow time for them to practise those skills.

As the workshop facilitator, clearly signpost what is happening at each stage in the workshop. E.g. you might say “We now look at interactive teaching.“

Adapting the format of the resource to the specific context. Ideally, there would be at least the following contexts:

  • paper only - possibly only the facilitator has a copy of the materials but ideally users do too
  • semi-digital - there is one computer/projector
  • fully digital - there are several computers with sound, and participants are able to watch various videos in groups

ICT practice: Different-tasks group work with ICT and activity planning

Each session has got a space reserved for doing ICT practice, many of these (especially in later units) are just called "ICT practice: Different-tasks group work with ICT and activity planning".

While participants learn about their own use of ICT, it is really important that participants are aware of their own learning process. While they are learning about ICT, participants should think about how they could engage their students in the same learning process.

This of course could apply to learning anything new, but in the context of the OER4Schools programme, ICT is likely to be a completely new skill, so it's particularly important to bring awareness to the process. Depending on the ICT availability and the number of participating teachers, it may be a good idea to draw up a timetable as to when which teachers (and classes) use the available netbooks. This ensures that

  • there are no clashes, but also
  • that the netbooks are used as much as possible.

It may be helpful to have this timetable on public display, and teacher "tick" their slot when they have actually used the ICT. If there is little or no use of the ICT by teachers in class, then this should be discussed, for instance in the session slot named "Connecting with overarching goals of the programme" (see above).

Classroom assistants

An idea used in this programme is to use students from higher grades as classroom assistants in lower grades. Many schools operate a shift system, which means that students normally attending school in the morning are free to help out in afternoon, and vice versa. However, this is something that needs to be negotiated with your school well in advance of running the programme. It depends on whether you are running the programme between a few interested teachers (in which case you can make more contained arrangements with other grades), or whether you are running the programme across the whole school (in which case you will need very systematic arrangements). Have a look at our page on classroom assistants. However, in other contexts, schools just run a single shift, which means that you cannot use this idea directly. However, you could still use ideas around cross-grade teaching, see our page on classroom assistants.


Participants would produce "portfolios" showcasing their work. These portfolios could also be used for formative assessment. They are introduced in this session, and further information is available here. If you are facilitating this programme, you should familiarise yourself with this now.

Programme agreement

In the first workshop, you will make a programme agreement with the participants, that is about turning up on time, turning up regularly (or reporting being ill), implementing the programme. More details are given in the first session.

Running the first workshop

As a facilitator, consider:

  • What are the issues with primary education in your country? Why are people invited to the OER4schools programme?
  • What are teachers’ expectations (attend for the whole year - starting off weekly)? Some people will be concerned with big picture, others with detail. Agree the day of the week for face to face meetings.
  • Some expectations about what a workshop should be like. Modelling activities in the workshop on activities planned for the classroom. (Modelling participation and interactivity at all levels.)

Introduce this resource and the topics within it -

  • Introduce strategies to incorporate interactive elements (things you might say, things you might do).
  • Thinking about your own practice; do you think you’d like to try one of these new approaches?
  • Do you want a buddy system (pairs of teachers matched by grade/class[K] or subject)?
  • Negotiate whether participants will use first names.
  • Consider whether there is a hierarchy among the participants? What do you need to do so that participants can talk to each other freely?

Before the first workshop:

  • Set up the room, so that it allows good communication. For instance, remove tables, or push tables to one side. Arrange chairs in circle.
  • Think about what props are needed. Do you need sheets of paper and pens?

Ice breakers

To start the session, welcome everybody to the workshop. You might then want to do an “ice breaker”.

Ice breaker 1 (for a group of colleagues): Stand up and sing a song together.

Ice breaker 2 (for group of participants who don’t know each other well): People say one or two words that describe themselves (such as “funny”, “sociable”, “shy”). Alternatively, chat in pairs, and then introduce your neighbour to the group.

Ice breaker 3 (for either colleagues or strangers): You could do this ice breaker if participants are less familiar with each other:

  1. People form groups of three.
  2. They have a conversation for no more than 3 min, 1 min each, on a specified topic, e.g. their favourite foods, what activity they are glad to be rid of and don't have to tackle today, their worst fantasy about what could go wrong as a consequence of the workshop.
  3. Facilitator claps their hands after each minute to signal changeover; after 3 min, groups dissolve and form new groups; facilitator changes the topic at this point and after every 3 min until everyone has spoken to everyone else.
  4. People have to stand up the whole time and move around - it is very energising, normally beginning quite quietly and ending up very loud!
  5. The next activity might connect with this icebreaker, for example asking volunteers to report back on their worst fantasy about what could go wrong in their classroom as a consequence of the professional development programme