During my career as a trainer, I've worked with groups as large as 75 and as small as 2 participants. When working with large groups, one of my favorite instructional techniques is to put the learners in small groups for activities. However, when the class size is so small that you don't even have a traditional 4-6 person group, how do you adjust your facilitation? With some of Langevin’s more advanced workshops, I have found myself in this exact situation. With a few modifications to my style, and some tried-and-true instructional techniques, I can easily facilitate groups with only a couple of participants.
1. Put away the PowerPoint
It may feel awkward standing in front of just a couple of participants while pointing at a diagram on a PowerPoint slide. Instead, shut off the projector, grab a chair, and sit with your participants. This will help you convert your presentation into a conversation. You'll find your participants are more willing to talk and contribute because you've changed the focus in the room. If you know in advance that you'll only have a couple of participants, feel free to leave the "Welcome" slide displayed until you begin the session.
2. Eliminate the whole group debrief
When the presentation method calls for groups to conduct a brainstorm activity or discuss content they are reviewing, consider having them share as they would in a typical group. However, if you silently sit with them as an observer, there will be no need to debrief the activity with the whole group, as there are no other groups with whom to share the information. This technique is also useful when a performance-based activity calls for the completion of a document or worksheet.
3. Walk away as they work
If you use in-depth case studies, consider giving your small group some space to discuss their ideas. If you are standing or sitting with them, they may feel uncomfortable expressing what they think, or they may turn to you for guidance. In these situations, you can actually leave the room and tell the group that they can find you right outside the door if they have any questions or concerns. This instructional technique also offers an opportunity for a meaningful debrief as the learners will have to verbalize to you their rationale for the decisions they made.
While many trainers consider small class size a disadvantage, I have found ways to connect more strongly and specifically with each of those participants than I ever could with a group of 75. Yes, the large group brings energy, but the small group brings the ILT experience to a very personal level where attention, engagement, and passion are relevant for both the participants and the facilitator.
For more tips and best practices relating to small group facilitation, our Instructional Techniques for New Instructors workshop is the best place to start! Check it out!