1. Organize! prepare a checklist 2 weeks ahead of time:

  • Goals
  • Activities
  • Equipment
  • Handouts
  • Prepare an agenda or schedule – which can be flexible Send a letter to participants telling them what to bring

2. Workshop should:

  • build in time for teachers to share with other teachers: Wine and Whine!
  • be challenging – but activities should be designed for success. Open-ended problems or questions allow for this
  • include a variety of formats to meet the needs of people who have different learning styles: exploration>instruction > practice > discussion
  • revisit or review topics – include this in your schedule

3. Presenters should:

  • be enthusiastic, be patient, have a sense of humor
  • have a backup plan.
  • go with the flow – if something goes wrong – deal with it!
  • know the audience! (If local, conduct a pre-workshop survey of participants)
  • let participants contribute their knowledge: e.g.. In a science workshop for elementary teachers, teachers contribute ideas about cross curriculum connections such as books, crafts, snacks that go with the science topic.
  • start and end on time!
  • say what you have to say and then get on with the activities!
  • provide an agenda, state goals up front
  • provide handouts. Two copies of a handout is a good idea. Allow one for notes and scribbles, and a fresh copy for the classroom. Handouts should contain up- to-date lists of equipment, web sites, book lists, etc.
  • offer communication after the workshop, offer opportunities to interested participants.

4. Having 2 presenters:

  • presenters have more confidence
  • presenters can provide more assistance

5. Workshop should build self-esteem and confidence

  • challenge the participants’
  • participants should work in groups. “It’s easier to be frustrated together than frustrated alone.”
  • open-ended activities again work here – with teams reporting at the end.
  • If teams used logic and reasoning to arrive at their conclusions, then they are successful.

6. The workshop should be a mini model for research in the classroom.

  • Don’t talk about it – do it with participants. Teachers don’t know that research is active, experimental and on-going!

7. Require participants to develop an implementation, or action plan.

  • let participants help each other – have a brainstorming session on how they are going to implement in the classroom.

8. Icebreakers can be a good way for participants to get to know each other and gain comfort – but should – in the interest of time – relate to the workshop. Some examples:

  • make and take – each participant gets a box with half of the items needed to make something. Have to find someone with the “other half”.
  • People are paired up. They have to learn about that person including one unique thing – and introduce that person to the rest of the group.

9. Helping people see the need for your ideas:

  • get them to your workshop! Send personalized invitations to each teacher – to their home address! Provide an advance copy of workshop highlights.
  • role play a poor science teacher and give participants an assignment to define science terms in a text chapter. After 30 seconds of incredulity on their parts, explain how research is different.
  • quotes from the most respected and well-known scientists like Einstein, for example, can be powerful motivation: “No number of experiments can prove me right, but it takes only one to prove me wrong”.
  • each person writes down one memory from his or her days as a K-12 science student.

10. The bottom line:

  • timing – hold the workshop during regular school hours if possible – but never right after school!
  • treat participants like professionals
  • Creature Comforts: Food!
  • incentives are important: freebies, release time, door prizes, stipends, credit, discounts, even a certificate and definitely good clean readable handouts! Going away with a finished product is nice
  • stress relief? Especially for technology related workshops! “I blew it” coupons, “something unexpected is going to happen” buttons.
  • Laughter

11. A few notes on the hostile or reluctant participant: These folks can be hecklers and run a workshop if they get the upper hand.

12. Allow participants to state why they came:

  • even if it a negative reason. This gets it out of the way. A good trick that stops the hostile participant from being disruptive is to get a positive comment from the people on either side of him/her.  This isolates the heckler and keeps him/her quiet.

Sometimes the mildly hostile participant is so because they know too much about the subject to find the session useful. Get them to be your assistants!