This workbook on Designing Successful Workshops will introduce you to the design and
implementation of successful workshops in your own setting/s.
The goal of this workbook is to describe a number of principles and strategies that can be
used to make workshops more effective. The effectiveness of a workshop leads to two
outcomes: “demonstrable learning or skill development and change or improvement in
practice”. (1) We hope that this workbook will help you to develop workshops with this level
Definition of ‘Workshop’: A workshop has been defined as “a usually brief, intensive
educational program for a relatively small group of people in a given field that emphasizes
participation in problem solving efforts”. (2) Traditionally, this educational method provides
learners with an opportunity to exchange information, practice skills and receive feedback,
and when properly designed, is a time- and cost-efficient method of actively involving
participants in the learning process. (3) Workshops are popular because of their inherent
flexibility and promotion of principles of experiential and adult learning. (4) They can also be
adapted to diverse settings in order to facilitate knowledge acquisition, attitudinal change or
How to use the workbook
We recommend that you complete the entire workbook as topics, or steps, are integrated.
The workbook will guide you through the following process:
1- Defining a Topic & Identifying the Target Audience
2- Conducting a Needs Assessment
3- Defining Workshop Goals and Objectives
4- Deciding on Time Frame and Number of Participants
5- Defining and Designing Workshop Content
6- Matching Teaching Methods to Content and Objectives
7- Choosing Teaching and Learning Resources
8- Designing a Workshop Program/Agenda
9- Designing the Workshop Evaluation
10- Fine-Tuning the Workshop Plan
11- Recruiting and Preparing Workshop Faculty
12- Determining Locale and Workshop Budget
13- Deciding on Marketing Strategies
14- Finalizing Administrative Details
15- Conducting the Workshop
If you are having difficulties with the workbook itself, or if you would like some help with
regards to some of the content of this workbook on designing successful workshops, please
contact us at:
Faculty Development Office
Faculty of Medicine, McGill University
Tel: (514) 398-2698
We hope that you find this workbook useful and we encourage you to give us feedback by
emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Faculty Development Office opened in the fall of 1994 with the aim of assisting faculty
members in their roles as educators, researchers, and administrators, using a broad range
of methods to achieve faculty goals. Faculty Development endeavors are coordinated by
members of the Faculty Development Team who work together closely with the Associate
Deans for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Education, chairs and program directors in all
of the schools, and in collaboration with colleagues throughout the Faculty of Medicine. We
design and implement faculty-wide and departmental workshops and seminars. The
workshops are chosen in line with the needs of faculty members, and information obtained
through: needs assessments of faculty members in the Faculty at large; surveys of faculty
development activities across the country; the evaluation of specific faculty development
workshops; an analysis of why faculty members do not participate in organized faculty
development activities; and a systematic review of faculty development designed to
enhance teaching effectiveness (5).
Topics have included: leadership and change; role modelling; educating for cultural
awareness; interactive lecturing; teaching technical and procedural skills; evaluating
residents; writing for publication; PowerPoint; Reference Manager; and more.
DEFINING A TOPIC
Intended Topic: ___________________________________________________
Here are some additional questions to consider which will help you to define the topic of
- Why is this topic important? (What will be the impact? Are you trying to address an
identified issue/problem by offering this workshop? Was this topic identified as a training need
within your group?)
- What expertise is available to prepare and conduct this workshop? (Do you have a
content expert working with you on this workshop? Do you have a team member with
experience in facilitation?)
- Have you thought of a catchy title for your workshop?
* TIP: An educational need has been defined as the gap between the current level of
knowledge, behavior or performance, and the desired, optimal or ideal level. (4)
* TIP: Having both a content expert and a facilitation expert will help you in the
development and in the delivery of your workshop, as both parties provide valuable,
complementary expertise, which will help to ensure that your workshop is a success.
IDENTIFYING THE TARGET AUDIENCE
Intended Audience: (What background do your future participants have? How much will they
know about the topic and how much will it differ from one person to the next? What do you
think will be their expectations?)
*TIP: Adults come to learning situations with a variety of motivations and
expectations about teaching goals and methods. Moreover, as much of adult
learning involve ‘relearning’ rather than new learning, adults often resent
the ‘student’ role. Incentives for adult learning usually come from within the
person, and feedback is more important than are tests and evaluation. It is
important, therefore, to respect the group’s previous knowledge and
experience, their motivation to learn, their potential resistance to change,
and their ability to serve as co-learners. (6)
CONDUCTING A NEEDS ASSESSMENT
Define the “Need”:
Is it an individual and/or organizational need?
Is it a “perceived” and/or “unperceived” need?
Consider Diverse Needs Assessment Methods and Data Sources:
Consultations with colleagues and experts (e.g. individual interviews and focus groups –
with target group, participants, and experts)
Consultations with other stakeholders (learners, patients, teachers)
Observations of learners in action
Written surveys and questionnaires
Chart audits and environmental scans of available resources
Other techniques (e.g. Nominal Group, Delphi Technique) (7)
*TIP: Effective workshops address participants’ needs. In diverse ways,
assessing needs is necessary to refine goals, to determine content, to identify
preferred learning formats, and to assure relevance. It can also promote
early “buy-in” and a relationship with the workshop participants as they
start to think about the topic at hand. (4)
*TIP: Whenever possible, workshop developers should try to gain
information from multiple sources and try to distinguish between “wants”
(i.e. subjective areas of interest) and “needs” (i.e. subjectively or objectively
defined gaps). Clearly, individual learners’ perceived needs may differ from
those expressed by their teachers, patients or peers. (4)
NEEDS ASSESSMENT WORKSHEET
What are the anticipated need(s)?
Outline which assessment methods and data sources you plan to use:
DEFINING WORKSHOP GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Defining your workshop goals and objectives is one of the most important steps in designing
Definition of ‘Goal’: A broad statement of intent.
Overall Goal(s) of Your Workshop: (What are you trying to achieve? Why is it important
for you to do so?)
*TIP: Determine your goals carefully, for they will inevitably influence your
choice of teaching method, the sequence of proposed learning activities, and
the evaluation strategy. (6)
Definition of ‘Objective’: A statement describing a proposed change in a learner – a
statement of what the learner is to be like when he/she has successfully completed a
learning experience. (8)
An objective should be SMART:
Specific (Objectives should specify what you want to achieve)
Measurable (You should be able to measure whether you are meeting the
objectives or not)
Achievable (Are the objectives that you set achievable and attainable?)
Realistic (You should realistically be able to achieve the objectives with the
resources you have?)
Tap into knowledge, attitudes and skills
Specific Workshop Objectives:
By the end of this workshop, participants will be able to:
To help you write your objectives, you may wish to refer to the grid on page 10 called
“Levels of Educational Objectives”, a modification of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational
*TIP: Statements describing objectives should begin with the phrase “by the
end of the workshop, the learner will be able to: ...” followed by an active
verb that demonstrates that learning has taken place. (4)
*TIP: In summary, the clarification of objectives form the basis of course
planning, help to articulate the teacher’s expectations, give clear directions
to the learner, and allow for evaluation of outcomes. (4)
On the left-hand column of this grid are levels of learning. The “knowledge level”, at the top,
is the most basic form of learning and the “evaluation level”, at the bottom, is the most
advanced. Once you have established what level of learning you would like your workshop
participants to achieve, you can refer to the right-hand column for examples of verbs which
can be used in defining your objectives.
“LEVELS” OF EDUCATIONAL OBJECTIVES *
LEVEL SAMPLE VERBS
Interpret information in own words.
Apply knowledge or generalize to new situations
Break down knowledge into parts and show
relationship among the parts.
Bring together parts of knowledge to form a whole
and build relationships for new situations.
Make judgments on basis of given criteria.
*Adapted from Benjamin Bloom, Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. (1956)
DECIDING ON TIME FRAME AND NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS
Intended Time Frame: (How much time do you have to give your workshop? Do you want
to include a break for the participants? Will the participants need to move from one room to
another during the workshop and, if yes, do you need to allow time for that?)
Other Possible Time Frame(s):
Pros and Cons of Each Time Frame:
Other Issues to Consider:
Day of the Week
Time of Day
*TIP: Although it is impossible to suggest an appropriate time span for all
workshops, it is important that a workshop be designed to enable the
achievement of its stated objectives. It should also allow for an appropriate
introduction at the outset and a summary at the end to facilitate learning.
Intended Number of Participants:
Other Possible Number of Participants:
Pros and Cons of Different Group Sizes:
*TIP: The number of participants in a workshop can have a big impact on the
level of interaction. To ensure interactivity, you will need to choose a
workshop format appropriate for the number of participants. For example,
the format could combine a plenary session & small group sessions, or it
could be small group sessions only. Ideally, small groups should include no
more than 8-12 participants. You should also ensure that you have planned
for an adequate number of group facilitators.
DEFINING AND DESIGNING WORKSHOP CONTENT
Now that you have established your workshop objectives and time frame, it is time to
brainstorm about the content that will be covered in your workshop.
Use the diagram on page 14 to establish what content elements will be associated with each
of your objectives. Content does not refer to teaching methods but to the knowledge, skills
and attitudes that will be communicated to the participants.
For a workshop on effective teamwork, one of the objectives could be: to help participants to
recognize and reflect on their own behaviour in teams. A content element that could be
included to meet this objective is to present the ingredients of effective teamwork (e.g.
communication, common goal).
For the same workshop, another objective could be to describe strategies to improve team
function. In this case the associated content element could be looking at ways to improve
communication (e.g. regular team meetings) or common goals (e.g. clear articulation).
**TIP: Provide relevant and practical information: Although active
participation and interaction are essential to a successful workshop, the
participants must also feel that they have learned something. Workshops are
meant to promote the acquisition of new knowledge as well as aptitudes
and skills. Some information must, therefore, be provided. (6)
Your Workshop Goal(s)
Content element 1
Content element 2
Content element 1
Content element 2
Content element 1
Content element 2
Objective 4: Objective 5: Objective 6:
MATCHING TEACHING & LEARNING METHODS TO CONTENT AND OBJECTIVES
Before we start looking at the teaching and learning methods that can be used in your
workshop, here is an outline of key principles of adult learning (which should be kept in mind
when choosing teaching and learning methods):
Principles of Adult Learning: (9)
Adults come to learning situations with a variety of motivations.
Adults come to learning situations with definite expectations about particular
learning goals and teaching methods.
Adults present with different learning styles.
Much of adult learning is relearning rather than new learning.
Adult learning often involves changes in attitudes as well as skills.
Most adults prefer to learn through experience – combining practice with feedback.
Incentives for adult learning usually come from within the individual.
Here are examples of methods commonly used in workshops, the majority of which promote
active participation and interaction (10):
Teaching & Learning Methods:
Small group discussions
Case presentations / discussions
Panels and debates
Individual and/or group exercises
Role play and/or simulations
Practice – with opportunities for feedback
Other methods may also be appropriate for your choice of topic.
This next step will help you to match the content elements that you came up with in Step 5
with the appropriate teaching and learning methods. Refer to the graph below and list your
content on the left-hand column, then match this content with the most applicable method.
*TIP: Workshops should encourage problem-solving and/or skill acquisition.
The choice of teaching methods should, therefore, reflect this bias. (6)
*TIP: Interaction is often defined as “a two-way exchange” between the
workshop facilitator and the participants; it can also refer to increased
discussion among the participants or engagement with the content of the
workshop. Interaction does not necessarily mean that the participants have
to do all of the talking; however, it does imply active involvement and
participation by all of the workshop participants so that they cannot remain
passive in the learning process. Instructional strategies that promote this
level of interaction (e.g., case discussions; role plays and simulations; live
demonstrations) should therefore be carefully considered. These strategies
should also be chosen to match the educational objectives, participants’
needs and preferences, and available time, and they should promote
experiential learning, reflection, feedback, and immediacy of application. (4)
MATCHING TEACHING & LEARNING METHODS TO CONTENT *
* Consider the pros and cons for each method.
CHOOSING TEACHING & LEARNING RESOURCES
With your workshop content in mind, establish whether you will need any teaching visual
aids or resources. Here are some examples:
Possible Teaching Aids:
e.g. On-line discussion groups
On-line cases and quizzes
Web-based teaching groups
*TIP: A variety of teaching aids and learning resources can be used
effectively during workshops. However, each must be chosen carefully
so that they match the educational goals and objectives. (4)
*TIP: Remember that people remember 20% of what they hear, 30% of
what they see, and 50% of what they SEE and HEAR. (Labonté, 1972)
Using the grid provided below, match the content elements of your workshop with the
teaching aids that will be required:
Matching Aids to Content
Content Aid(s) Pros and Cons
DESIGNING A WORKSHOP PROGRAM / AGENDA
The next step is to establish the order that the content should come in as well as the amount
of time that should be allocated to each content element. In planning your agenda, consider
pace, focus and variety. Whenever possible, try to allow for extra time in order to enable
Complete the grid below to establish your program:
Time Objective/Content Teaching Method(s)
*TIP: Flexibility is one of the key ingredients of a successful workshop. As
important as it is to plan ahead, it is even more important to be prepared to
abandon your prepared agenda! (6)
*TIP: Vary your activities and your style: Make sure that the workshop flows
at a pace that keeps the participants’ attention. Appropriate pacing implies,
moving the workshop along while leaving room for the group to slow down
or speed up the presentation. (6)
DESIGNING THE WORKSHOP EVALUATION
Consider the following questions. Your answers will help you to design the evaluation form
for your workshop. A sample evaluation form is available on page 24 to help guide you.
*TIP: In preparing to evaluate your workshop, it is helpful to consider
the following questions: What is the goal of your evaluation? Is it to
be used for program planning or decision-making, for policy
formation or academic inquiry? What models of program evaluation
will be useful to you and what are the available data sources (e.g.,
teachers; participants; peers)? What method(s) of evaluation do you
want to use (e.g., questionnaires; focus groups; objective tests;
observations) and what resources will be needed to support the
evaluation (e.g., institutional support; research grants)? (4)
**TIP: At a minimum, a practical and feasible evaluation should
include an assessment of utility and relevance, content, teaching and
learning methods, and intent to change. Moreover, as evaluation is
an integral part of program planning, it should be conceptualized at
the beginning of any program. It should also include qualitative and
quantitative assessments of learning and behaviour change.
(4 & 11)
*TIP: The need to evaluate educational programs and activities is
clear. In fact, the evaluation of workshops is more than an academic
exercise, especially as the results can be used in the design, delivery
and marketing of future programs. (4)
Sample evaluation form
Please rate the plenary and small group sessions in terms of how useful you found them.
Not at all Very
Useful Useful Useful
1. Plenary: 1 2 3 4 5
2. Small Group Practicum I: 1 2 3 4 5
3. Small Group Practicum II: 1 2 3 4 5
4. Overall, how useful was this workshop to you? 1 2 3 4 5
5. What aspect of this session was most useful to you?
6. What aspect of this session was least useful to you?
7. Would you recommend this workshop to your colleagues? Yes No
8. What, if anything, might you do differently following this workshop?
9. Requests for future workshops, courses, or seminars:
10. Additional comments:
FINE-TUNING THE WORKSHOP PLAN
It is important to understand that each element in the workshop design influences the other:
the choice of goals and objectives have an impact on the content, which has an impact on
the choice of teaching methods and aids, which, in turn, influences what will be evaluated
RECRUITING AND PREPARING WORKSHOP FACULTY
To encourage group discussion and experiential learning, it is recommended that you recruit
an adequate number of workshop faculty. In order to maximize interaction, the participants
should be divided into small groups of 8-12 participants. This size group should be relatively
manageable for the group facilitators.
Who will you recruit? (How many workshop facilitators will you need?)
What will be their role? (How many experienced workshop facilitators should you have on
the team? How many content experts will you need and do they need to be paired with an
If they are not involved in the development/design of the workshop, how will you
prepare your workshop faculty? (Will you ask for their opinion once the core of the work
has been done?)
When will you hold your “dry-run”? (A “dry run” is an opportunity to go through the
workshop materials with the workshop faculty and make any necessary adjustments.)
*TIP: A “dry run”, during which the workshop objectives, content and
process are reviewed and the final plan is confirmed, can be very
helpful. Through collective planning and understanding of the
workshop rationale, “buy-in” and a sense of ownership are promoted.
In addition, both workshop content and process (i.e., how the session
will be run) should be reviewed. At times, a written handout with
suggested guidelines on how to conduct the session can also help to
ensure uniformity and success. Immediately following the workshop, a
“de-briefing” session can be held, to highlight what did – and didn’t –
work, and to plan for the next time. (4)
DETERMINING LOCALE AND WORKSHOP BUDGET
The layout of the room used for a workshop can help or hinder the dynamics of the group
during a workshop. A room where all participants can see each other (i.e. not a classroom or
theatre style layout) will assist the workshop facilitator in creating a more interactive learning
Pros and cons of each (e.g. cost, room arrangement):
The budget for your workshop should be agreed at the start of the project. The outline below
indicates some of the major cost items of a workshop, but this list may not include all items
that apply to your situation. An Excel template that may be useful can also be found at:
Workshop Publicity.................................................................... $_________
Stationery and Workshop Materials........................................... $_________
Refreshments ............................................................................ $_________
Audiovisual Equipment .............................................................. $_________
Income (Sources of Funding)
Balance (Income – Costs) $_________
* A template Excel spreadsheet for budget planning is available on the Faculty Development
website at: www.mcgill.ca/medicinefacdev/resources/teaching.
DECIDING ON MARKETING STRATEGIES
Here are a few ideas related to marketing which you may wish to consider if you need to
advertise your workshop and/or recruit for participants:
Determine how the workshop will be announced:
Design the announcement:
Make sure to include:
Time, place, cost
Objectives (if appropriate)
Credits (if appropriate)
Cost (if appropriate)
Registration procedure and deadline
Decide on publicity and recruitment strategies:
e.g. Mass mailing
Other items to consider:
e.g. Timing of the publicity
Inclusion with other mailings
*TIP: As educators responsible for the success of your workshops, you
must work to overcome reluctance to participate and market your
“product” effectively. Continuing education credits, as well as free
and flexible programming, can also help to facilitate motivation and
MARKETING STRATEGY WORKSHEET
Intended Workshop Announcement:
Key Marketing Information:
Intended Publicity and Recruitment Strategies:
Communication with Participants:
FINALIZING ADMINISTRATIVE DETAILS – SAMPLE CHECKLIST
Here are examples of some of the administrative elements involved in organizing a
Pre-Workshop Checklist Deadline Done Comments
Conduct needs assessment
Define workshop objectives
Decide on teaching methods and aids
Design workshop evaluation
Order necessary equipment
Determine workshop costs
Seek financial support
Determine workshop publicity strategy
Prepare list of participants’ contact
Pre-Workshop Checklist Deadline Done Comments
Recruit speakers and small group leaders
Organize date and location for dry-run
Send out reminder for dry-run
Audio-visual and Computer Equipment
Order audio-visual equipment:
DVD player and monitor
Camera and tripod
Request AV/computer technician
Prepare list of participants
Prepare workshop materials and handouts:
Role plays/Simulation scenarios
Workshop evaluation forms
Print/copy workshop materials & handouts
Prepare participants’ packages
Prepare group leaders’ packages
Stationery and Supplies
Order workshop stationery and supplies:
Flipchart paper and markers
Dry erase markers and erasers
Masking tape and/or scotch tape
Lined paper and/or coloured paper
Organize workshop supplies
Organize registration procedure
Prepare sign-in sheet
Prepare small group assignments
Prepare name tags
Day of Workshop Checklist
Set up plenary room
Set up workshop rooms
Set up registration desk
Ensure availability of coat racks & hangers
Confirm refreshments and lunch
Arrange boxes for evaluation forms
Revise list of participants: e.g. actual
participants, cancellations, on-site
Send follow-up letter to group leaders
Send follow-up letter to participants
Acknowledge financial support
File workshop materials
CONDUCTING THE WORKSHOP
Here are few suggestions related to the delivery of a workshop which you may wish to
Room set up
An appropriate room set up can help to facilitate group interaction. As an example, you
should ensure that all participants can see you and each other. Theatre style set ups may
be appropriate for a mini-lecture section within your workshop, but not for the interactive
Introduce members of the group to each other
Introduce yourself and the facilitators of the workshop to the group. If the group is small, you
may want to ask participants to briefly introduce themselves, and to state their expectations
of the workshop. If the group is large, you may want to ask the group members to introduce
themselves by a show of hands in response to questions such as: “How many of you
Outline the objectives of the workshop
It is important that the group understands your objectives and what you are trying to
accomplish. This section can also be used as an opportunity to solicit participants’
expectations for the workshop. This will inform the facilitator and provide an opportunity for
the facilitator to manage expectations.
*TIP: Tell the group what you hope to accomplish in the available
time. Specify what you will and will not do. Try to match your
objectives to the participants’ needs. Outline the schedule of events
so that the group members will know what to expect. (6)
Encourage active participation
Effective questioning and active participation by group members facilitates an atmosphere
conducive to teaching and learning. Invite questions, group discussions, and debate.
Encourage the participants to learn from each other. In particular, group members could be
asked to work through a set of problems or to practice a specific skill. To promote problem
resolution, you may wish to divide your audience into smaller groups.
Provide relevant and practical information
Interaction is important but participants must feel like they have taken some new knowledge
away at the end of the workshop. Knowledge of your participants will help you to target your
material appropriately and ensure that you meet the group’s needs and expectations.
Mini-lectures are definitely permissible in a workshop. They often help to set the tone, to
cover the basic data, and to ensure a common ground for discussion. Participants should
have an opportunity to respond to the presented information. Questions and comments from
the participants should also be encouraged.
Remember principles of adult learning
Review Step 6 of this workbook. It is important to respect the group’s previous knowledge
and experience, motivation to learn, potential resistance to change, and ability to function as
Vary your activities and your style
For a list of a variety of teaching and learning methods and aids, consult Steps 6 and 7 of
this workbook. Make sure that you plan for flexibility and time for questions, comments and
examples/cases from the participants.
To encourage reflection, you may want to ask participants to self-assess or to provide
feedback to their peers.
*TIP: It is valuable to request feedback from the group as to whether
you have accomplished your stated objectives and how they would
improve the session in the future. (4)
Summarize your session
Firstly, re-state what you have tried to achieve in the workshop, your original goal. Secondly,
synthesize the main points that came out of the workshop and small group discussions. You
may also want to ask participants what their main individual learning point was and follow up
by discussing their action plans, i.e. how they will implement/apply what they have learned.
Request feedback from the group
Getting the participants to evaluate your workshop will help you improve in the future. Refer
to Step 9 of this workbook for additional information on how to design the workshop
*TIP: Reflection is a key ingredient in the process of learning as it
helps to shift surface learning of new information into deeper
learning and understanding. (12)
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