For me a larger size group makes it easier to encourage learners to participate. Let’s face it, in a larger group there are more chances that we’ll have an extrovert (or two!) who will engage with the instructor and other learners, and encourage the group to interact.
Frequently I hear that our clients are conducting training for small groups of two to four learners. With few people in the classroom, introverts can become nervous and withdrawn especially if there is one highly expressive learner who monopolizes the session. If a learner is intimidated they will become less participative or even negative.
In a small group we wish to promote a balanced blend of participation among all our learners. No matter how we slice it, at times training can be an environment in which people become nervous about sharing their opinions or speaking up. At times like this we want to use subtle instructional techniques to invite active participation. I enjoy using a technique I call, “Let’s Give Them Something to Think About!”
In the training rooms I use, there is a flipchart located at each group table. I title each chart, “Something to Think About.” In conversation bubbles, I write a probing question related to the course content. The question is different for each table group. For example, in our Training Needs Analysis workshop with two table groups, I might write the following questions:
- If training isn’t the issue, what might it be?
- Is this training really worth the cost and effort?
The idea is to post questions we know the learners are going to ask themselves at some point during the training. By posting the questions ahead of time, they begin to formulate thoughts and responses, and are likely to begin thinking of additional questions. We can post new questions, quotes, or ideas after each break to encourage inner dialogue as much as possible.
If flipcharts are not available, a tent card can be used on every table. Ask the participants to discuss the question whenever they have an opportunity.
What instructional techniques do you use to promote participation in very small groups? Please share your unique ideas and strategies. I look forward to your participation!