Socially Engaged Art

How to Give a Workshop (a Workshop)

Added on by Zachary Gough.

November 9th, 2015

Sid holds the document of the conversation his break-out group had during the workshop. 

Sid holds the document of the conversation his break-out group had during the workshop. 

After the Tatamagouche Free School (2015) on Waldegrave Farm, some of us thought that we could use a workshop on how to give a workshop. If our workshop-giving skills were more effective, we’d be more effective at sharing our numerous talents, interests and skills in ways that don’t replicate power relations too-often present in our normal learning environments. Moreover, if more of us felt qualified to lead workshops for our neighbours, we might continue to grow a culture of sharing through the tradeschool platform. In this workshop we’ll talk about what makes a good workshop, and what makes a bad workshop, and we’ll brainstorm ideas for new workshops and structures for what those workshops might look like. Bring your memories from past workshops and ideas for future workshops.

A big part of the message of the workshop, and the form that the workshop took to reflect that message, was to train ourselves to design our workshops in such a way that they draw out the expertise of the participants in the room. Rather than being the sole authority on a particular subject, the workshop facilitator provides opportunities for students to share their knowledge and experiences. The teacher then, becomes the steward of a learning environment, that respects and values each person present. Moreover, it allows students to build on their own understanding of the topic, starting with what they already know.

To avoid falling down a meta wormhole, I employed a ‘timeout’ strategy, where we’d do a component of the workshop, as listed on the workshop plan, then, after it was over, I rang a bell to signify a moment where the group could reflect on what we did, why we did it and how it went. After the reflective conversation, I rang the bell and - game on - on to the next activity. I posted the plan for the day on a big sheet of paper in a visible place, so that participants could see our progression through the workshop.

During the workshop we recorded our thoughts on large sheets of paper, which I turned into a zine. 

This Workshop was co-presented by the Radical Imagination Project and Trade School Halifax