Pipe cleaners? I’ll explain…
This is Part Four in a four part series in planning, facilitating, and evaluating a workshop, designed to assist you if you’re new to the world of workshop facilitation or want to find more ways to improve what you’re already doing.
In Part One, we focused on essential things to consider before planning your workshop. In Part Two, we learned how best to structure a workshop for maximum effect, using my workshop template. In Part Three, we discussed the skills needed to be an effective workshop facilitator. Today, let’s discuss the final phase in workshop facilitation: gathering feedback from your participants as a way to improve your workshop.
Just as a direct service provider gathers feedback on her services at her agency or organization, evaluating your workshop is important in order to improve the workshop for another set of participants. You get direct feedback from your participants on what worked, what can be improved, and how the participants processed the information they’ve learned from your workshop.
You’re getting feedback on four components:
*Usefulness- Did the participant find the workshop useful? As we know from Part One, sometimes participants are attending your workshop because it’s mandatory, based on skill set on potential knowledge increase expected by the person or group who have invited you to facilitate. Either way, can the participant see herself applying what she’s learned in her life, school, or work?
*Workshop flow- Did the participant feel there was enough time for the topic being covered? Often, you’ll be told how much time you’ll have for your workshop, and you want to make the best use of it. Going back to Part Two, you have the option of delving deeper into an aspect of a topic, or the option of being more broad. Did the participant feel that she was given enough time to do the workshop activities? Was too much time given? Did the workshop end abruptly or was there an appropriate conclusion?
*Facilitator style- Did the participant feel that the facilitator was knowledge on the topic? Did the participant feel welcomed into the workshop space? Did the participant feel that her voice was heard? Did the participant feel that the facilitator was able to guide the conversation and handle distractions accordingly? In Part Three, we know that you should have command over your topic but be approachable to your participants. This can keep them engaged.
*Knowledge increase/behavioral change- Did the participant learn something that they didn’t know before? Does the participant plan to change their behavior? This is similar to evaluating the usefulness of your workshop, but this time it focuses primarily on the participant.
Ways to Evaluate Your Workshop
Most workshop evaluations are done in written format. The first section of the evaluation typically lists the name of the workshop, the facilitator’s name, the date of the workshop, and gathers demographic information of the participant such as age, gender, racial identity, marital status, sexual orientation, etc. Other areas include focus on workshop content, how the workshop was designed, the skills of the facilitator, behavioral/knowledge change, and ways to improve the workshop. Here’s a sample workshop evaluation from Enhancing Education. Feel free to model your evaluation after this one and make it more appropriate (language-wise) to your participants.
You don’t always have to rely solely on written evaluations. Here are some creative ways to gather feedback from your participants:
Poll Everywhere– Poll Everywhere utilizes something that people tend to do often: text messages. It’s a fun, creative way to gather feedback, it’s very customizable and it allows for your participants to be anonymous. It’s also free for group with under 40 participants.
Temperature Gauge- Taking a sheet of easel paper, draw an image of a thermometer. Throughout the workshop, you can ask the participants for their “temperature”: How are they being influenced or affected by what’s being shared? Are participants feeling calm, or are they aroused? Are they bored? This will allow you to see if you need to go to move on to another activity or spend more time exploring.
The Problem Hat– This is a great evaluation example from the Peace Building toolkit, created by Caritas.org. Taking a hat, sheets of paper, and pens/pencils, participants write down an answer to the following: “I am having difficulty with…”. After writing down their difficulty, collect the sheets of paper and placed them into a hat. Participants will then take turns pulling out a sheet of paper and reading what’s written. Participants will then offer a solution that can help increase understanding.
Bright Dots and Pipe Cleaners- For “Bright Dots”: Take several sheets of your easel paper. Write down an evaluation statement. An example statement could be “I feel confident in applying what I learned today to my school/work life.” Taking red, yellow, and green stickers, the participants will place one sticker under the statement. Red signifies “no”, yellow means “maybe/not sure”, and green is for “yes”. For “Pipe Cleaners”: At the beginning of the workshop, have three boxes placed in an area of the room that’s clearly visible to the participants. One box is marked as “yes”, the second is marked as “not sure”, and the third is marked as “no”. Above the boxes, write an evaluation statement. An example statement could be “I know a lot about the topic of today’s workshop”. Upon entering the room, give the participants one pipe cleaner. Instruct the participant to place their pipe cleaner in the appropriate box. During a group activity, make note of how many pipe cleaners are in each box before removing them. At the end of the workshop, replace the original evaluation statement with a new one. An example can be “I know more about the topic now compared to what I knew before.” Pass out the pipe cleaners again, and as the participants are leaving, have them place their pipe cleaner in the appropriate box.
Positive and Delta- Using your easel paper, chalkboard or whiteboard, divide a sheet of paper or board space into two sections. On the left side, write “+” (what went well) at the top. On the right side, write “Δ” (improvements for next time). Ask participants to share what they enjoyed about the workshop (inviting them to give feedback on not only the activities, but the flow of the workshop) as well as their recommendations for what can be made better. When asking for feedback on what can be improved for next time, stress to participants to focus on the overall workshop, and not entirely on the logistics. There may be certain logistics (i.e., having the workshop in the morning vs. in the afternoon, physical temperature of the room, not having food, etc.) that can be easily changed compared to other logistics.
Brief is better- The longer your evaluation is, the less likely you’ll get quality feedback. Take into consideration that your participants have been sitting for a while and may be itching to leave, whether they enjoyed the workshop or not. If you feel you must have a longer evaluation, allow enough time at the end of the workshop for the participants to complete it.
Combine different types of evaluations- Generally, written evaluations are used at the end of a workshop, but you an also evaluate throughout the workshop. Poll Everywhere or “Temperature Gauge” can be used mid way through the workshop, followed by a written evaluation at the end.
Be mindful of how you phrase your evaluation questions- How you phrase your evaluation questions can result in what types of responses you receive. “What didn’t you like about today’s workshop?” sounds different from “In what ways can this workshop be improved?” If a participant writes down or verbally states something they didn’t like, challenge them to come up with 1-2 suggestions for improvement.
Look at your feedback for common themes- Of course, as the workshop facilitator, you expect to get more positive feedback back than negative, and it may feel discouraging if you see that you’ve gotten more recommendations for improvement compared to what went well. Instead of taking this as a fail, look for common themes as this can be something to consider for the next set of participants. Did several participants not understand a particular aspect of the workshop? Did some participants prefer more group discussion as opposed to individual activities?
And We’re Done!
I hope you’ve found the Planning and Facilitating Valuable Works series helpful. If you want more in-depth knowledge on creating a workshop (or if you are interested in inviting me to facilitate a workshop for you), read more about my consulting services and contact me to see how we can work together.