Getting started

From OER in Education

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Introduction and overview of the workshop

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Time: 15-30 minutes

Objective: To introduce the aims of the workshop.

Preparation: Try to ensure the setting is egalitarian, all sitting round a common space (board room style, and not a lecture style).

Process: Led by the workshop facilitator, start with a ‘getting to know you’ exercise, especially if people are not already familiar with each other.

Introduce participants to the aims of the workshop, which can be broadly summed up as:

  1. to develop a shared understanding of research using qualitative methods.
  2. to provide an opportunity to critically discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches to qualitative data collection.
  3. to provide an opportunity to experience the use of qualitative research methods, both for participants with a ‘book knowledge’ of these methods and for those with more experience with the use of quantitative methods.

Once the participants are familiar with each other and are aware of the broad aims of the workshop, provide participants with an overview of what will happen over the next few days: circulate the first handout (hand out: Overview of the workshop).

Talk the participants through the handout and highlight the following:

  • Acknowledge the research experience there may already be in the room and stress the need to learn together, to actively engage with others and to build on existing knowledge and experiences. Hence stress that all sessions must have a strong element of participation if they are to work properly.
  • Point out that this training programme provides an opportunity to practice various skills, not only within sessions but also tasks outside of the sessions that have been scripted. Engaging with workshop activities is essential as all sessions are heavily interlinked. Ask that everyone who attends takes part in all the activities. As the facilitator, make sure that no-one should sit around and watch while others do things (like role-playing in interviews) that might be embarrassing.
  • Recognise that there are lots of things that participants will be discussing and covering over the next few days. In order to make this task easier, a range of handouts and additional reading materials will be provided.
  • Encourage participants to take notes in a 'course diary'. This will help them to reflect about the sessions, and note down any questions and contributions that they wish to discuss.

Working towards shared goals

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Time: 15-30 minutes

Objectives: To become aware of the different expectations that participants have from this workshop

Preparation: Packs of ‘Post-its’

Process: Explain that you want to find out more about the participants' expectations, feelings and thoughts about the workshop, and to share with them your feelings, thoughts and expectations, so that you can make sure during the next few days of the workshop you can respond most effectively to what the participants want/need.

Ask participants to write what they expect from the next few days. Each aim/expectation should be written on a single 'Post-it' (or use index cards and thumb-tacks). Ask participants to stick their aims/expectations on the board.

Allow time for questions and comments. Conclude by explaining that during the workshop you will try and respond to the various points that have been raised in the discussions, but be honest about expectations that you will not be able to meet.

Agreeing guidelines for working together as a group

Time: 20-30 minutes


  • For the group to decide the kind of guidelines that might be useful for smooth functioning of the workshop.
  • To gain a collective understanding of the reason for each guideline


  • Flip chart or chart to write on
  • Big markers


Explain that you want participants to agree on a set of guidelines, to help us all to work together in a productive and harmonious manner. Guidelines can help people to work better together, in a way that is fair and respectful to everyone's needs and contributions. Guidelines can help everyone feel comfortable in a group which is essential for successful learning.

Divide participants into small groups of three or four, and ask them to make a list of all the things they think should be included in the guidelines.

After 10 minutes bring everyone back together, and ask each small group in turn to share their suggestions.

Write their suggestions on flip chart. Each time another group makes the same suggestion, indicate this with a tick.

Check your own list (see below) and see if there are any items that you think are important but have not been identified by the groups. Consult with the participants: should these suggestions be included in the final list, or not?

Discuss the guidelines, allowing time for comments and questions. Does anyone think that any of the guidelines need to be amended or even removed from the list? How do other people feel about it?

Make certain (to the extent possible) that all the guidelines are acceptable to all participants.

Discuss who is responsible for making sure that the group observes the guidelines (it should be everyone!) and how participants wish to deal with situations where the guidelines are not respected.

A final agreed list should be written on a flip chart and permanently displayed on the wall of the room.

Here is an example of such a list, that emerged from discussions in one of our own workshops:

Workshop Guidelines:

  • Critique but do not criticise
  • When giving feedback use affirmatives and not negatives
  • Thank everyone at the end of the day
  • Have fun
  • Say when you don’t understand
  • Allow time for people to speak and express themselves
  • Confidentiality: no personal information shared in the workshop should be repeated outside the workshop

Cc-by-nc-sa-narrow.png Singal, N., and Jeffery, R. (2008). Qualitative Research Skills Workshop: A Facilitator's Reference Manual,, Cambridge: RECOUP (Research Consortium on Educational Outcomes and Poverty, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. (original page)