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November 2018
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TD Magazine

Go Bananas With Your Class (or Apples or Oranges …)

The situation

As a trainer, it's not unusual to get into a pattern of calling on the energized, extroverted participants. Or perhaps you have a difficult participant who makes a wise crack at every available opportunity. How can a facilitator give other participants a chance to contribute to the conversation without obviously shutting out louder voices?

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The trick

Rather than defaulting to learners who have their hands raised to answer a question, create a structure for calling on others. This will make for a more inclusive discussion and lead to increased engagement. Here's how:

  1. As part of your usual preparation of the classroom, place stickers—colored dots, fruit icons, or other type of decal (for example, stars or cartoon characters)—on learners' name tents, participant guides, or the backs of chairs in a random fashion.
  2. When the time arrives for a debrief or to solicit input from participants, rather than having learners raise their hands, tell the class that you want to hear from those who, for example, have an apple sticker. This enables introverts who may need a moment to gather their thoughts to more actively participate. It'll also put the difficult participant on notice that he should sit this one out. (If you've put the stickers on the back of chairs, this is an opportunity to get participants up and out of their chairs for a moment. Because learners often aren't cognizant that the stickers were present, it also adds an element of surprise.)
  3. You don't need to call on individuals by sticker color or type for every question; you could mix this in with the usual hand raising. But using the trick can add new perspectives, help introverts gain new confidence, and manage difficult participants.

Pro tip

The same system of planting dots or other type of sticker on learners' chairs, participant guides, or name tents can be used to sort groups into smaller discussion groups. Ask, for example, all the learners with banana stickers to move to table one, all the pears to table two, and so forth.

About the Author

Nikki O’Keeffe is an internal ATD Facilitator. She is dedicated training specialist who delivers a positive, memorable, and meaningful service that repeatedly meets or exceeds the expectations of the client. She has experience creating strategies and visions to ensure training requirements and deliveries are in line with quality, probability, and client need. 

Nikki has worked in varied industries, including education, healthcare, and pharmaceuticals. In her role as the global senior training and development specialist at PAREXEL International, her focus was on managing and developing courses for new and existing staff on technical systems, process changes, new products, and soft skills.  Her educational background includes a BA in psychology from Butler University and a master’s degree in exercise science, health, and wellness from Northeastern Illinois University. Her specific areas of interest include virtual training, facilitation techniques, and mentoring new trainers. 

Nikki is skilled at providing face-to-face and online learning programs for global participants of varying experience levels. In addition to delivering training, she has performed training needs analyses to identify gaps and recommend training solutions, worked with SMEs as a consultant to develop courses and curriculums, and evaluated programs for effectiveness. 

As a certified ATD Master Trainer and certified ATD Master Instructional Designer she understands the value of solid training plans and strong facilitation. Nikki looks forward to sharing her experiences and expanding her knowledge base by learning from her participants in the upcoming ATD courses that she leads.

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