Designing In-Service Workshops

I had the opportunity recently to do a workshop on grammar teaching with a group of around 90 mostly secondary school EFL teachers in Slovenia. This was a good opportunity for me to revisit some of my workshop design principles and how they might be translated into practice. Here’s a summary of my rationale and approach.

I’ve not received any feedback yet but the session (which I repeated twice which groups of around 40-45 each time) seemed to work reasonably well. In terms of personalisation, using teachers’ answers to a short pre-workshop online survey (which 84% of them completed) worked particularly well; to take one example that provided a focus for discussion (see the figure below – survey statements were longer), while 96% of the teachers agreed that learning grammar is more memorable when it is fun, only 29% agreed that their students enjoyed learning grammar. We then focused on how conventional grammar activities might be made more enjoyable.

What teachers think about aspects of grammar teaching (% agreeing – 82 responses)

What teachers do after the session is of course entirely up to them. I did include at the end of the handout advice on several options: read, experiment, share, review, reflect, design, and search. There was also a design task (transforming a conventional grammar activity into something more imaginative) which we did not do together but which teachers could do later, alone or with colleagues at work.

One additional way in which I might have further personalised the workshop would have been to ask teachers – either before or during the session – to look at a unit from their textbooks and to examine how grammar was approached there (it is important though to keep pre-workshop tasks simple). Or I could have included some examples from their textbooks in those that we discussed during the workshop.

If you organise workshops for teachers, I’d be interested in hearing about your design principles and your reflections on mine. If you are a teacher, are these principles the right ones for you or are there other concerns which those who plan workshops for teachers should pay more attention to?

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3 Responses to Designing In-Service Workshops

  1. Julie says:

    This must have been a wonderful workshop. I agree with all the principles especially number 4 and I think it is important to consider the beliefs of teachers where grammar teaching is concerned. Most workshops in my country are mostly prescriptive and do not strive to explore the reasons why teachers make the decisions they do.

    • Simon Borg says:

      Thanks Julie. One-off workshops with experienced teachers you don’t know and won’t see again are tricky but it went reasonably well. Helping teachers explore beliefs is important, yes, especially as sometimes those beliefs might not be conducive to effective learning. What are workshops in your country like?

      • Julie says:

        Oh I see, hoping you receive positive feedback. Workshops here in Zambia mostly are quite prescriptive really. You will have facilitators telling you the dos and don’ts and sometimes these are people who do not even know the actual teaching context on the ground. It can get frustrating at times.

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