On this page, we explain the theories we apply to our planning stage and what elements we consider when thinking about workshops which could be of a sensitive nature. This will hopefully give clients a small insight into what we consider to be of most importance but also what contingencies we devise to ensure a smooth running workshop, offering the best experience we can for our client’s participants.
Firstly, there is the workshop structure we have created, which most of our workshops follow. Our structure has been based on the Yerkes-Dodson law with a focus on arousal energy being at the heart of it. This refers to the idea that as facilitators, the structure we create needs a flow that we can control and compliments the aim of each individual workshop. Specifically, the Yerkes-Dodson law focuses on the idea of finding the optimum level of arousal; this does not necessarily mean that the participants who are hyperactive are better engaged than those who are not. The optimum arousal energy is the best level that suits the particular point of the workshop. As you will be able to see in the diagram (click on 'structure'), the flow is illustrated nicely showing the effect of each activity and how they complement one another.
So as well as the flow, the diagram gives a strong idea of how the order of our workshops normally progress. Firstly, we begin with an ice breaker game which allows us to become a part of the group of participants and learn something about them, even as simple as their name. Sometimes this game is simply to raise their energy and interest in us, or to start slowly introducing the topic. Depending on the nature of the topic being discussed, this game can be used a subtle indicator of what the workshop will be covering. But importantly for us, we can gauge an idea of friendship groups, those who speak and put themselves quite central versus those who are on the edge - this was inspired by one of Chris Johnston’s six polarities titled ‘The Centre and The Edge’ which focuses on ensuring “everyone should feel, in some way, part of the centre” (Johnston, 2005, p. 32), ensuring no one feels like they are on the edge. “After all, the group is a microcosm of society. There’s assent, dissent, loyalty and doubt” (Johnston, 2005, p. 32).
After this first ice breaking game, we then shift on two games/activities which might start to provoke thoughts or feelings. As mentioned, we keep our games drama based, but tailor the content of them so that they can be applied to healthy relationships and the theme of the workshop. We focus on using activities that are non-verbal, so that participants can focus on what is provoked as a result of the exercise. We then finish each activity with time for the participants to share their reflections with us and the rest of the group.
Our research into current and the future proposals for Relationship and Sex Education suggest that the discussion on ‘What makes a healthy relationship’ needs to be at the core of our workshops. Regardless of what the topic is, this revisit to the foundations is important. Firstly, it allows them to apply any of the outcomes of our activities to relationships. This therefore allows the participants to begin to relate to the topic they are working on but from a distance, utilising a one step removed technique. Secondly, it encourages the participants to self-facilitate a discussion and begin healthy debates. Finally, in terms of the workshop, it tries to place our participants into the right mind-set prior to the performance, which is an opportunity to apply their knowledge, but also witness the topic in action.
Finally, is the performance itself. Although it is important for us to lead them through a workshop where discussion and exploration is key, we feel that by allowing the participants to become observers of a performance allows them to be openly critical of the characters. This closes our workshops nicely so that they can apply what has been discussed to an example and give us, as facilitators, an indicator of how well the workshop has been received.
We understand that neither the topic nor the use of drama is hugely appealing to our mostly teenage target audience. However, through our work, we ensure that there is not a sense of embarrassment or the feeling of being singled out is a priority; we want our participants to be a part of the discussions that are sparked and the experiences created. To do this, when planning, we adopt Geese Theatre’s approach of categorising our activities into levels of focus. This refers to “the level of individual focus placed upon anyone in the group at a given moment” (Baim et al, 2002, p. 31) and allows us to think about what level would be produced as an outcome of a particular activity. They are split into three categories:
Low - Where the participants are working together or in small groups, avoiding placing attention onto an individual in a moment.
Medium - This is when the class place attention on one group, who might be sharing something back.
High - An individual who has all of the attention given to them by the group for more than a brief moment.
We intend to avoid the use of ‘High’ level of focus because some of the topics that are covered in the workshops could be of a sensitive nature or may connect too deeply with someone on an emotional, personal level. The only occasions when ‘High’ level of focus can be seen are in games, such as “Yes, Let’s”, where the focus on the individual is ‘passing’, which simply means it becomes high for a brief moment.
Based on our experiences as facilitators, we have decided to plan our workshops to fill a one hour lesson. This is negotiable with us and can be adapted to respective school timetables. When considering time within our sessions we have adopted an ethos of working our workshops in thirds; ice breakers/exercises, the mind map discussions and the performance. We are always keen that the first two thirds of the workshop are completed with time to reflect in between activities. We consider the performance section a chance to apply; but exploration and chance to discuss is more paramount. As Roger Hill states, “The strangest place you should reach is two thirds of the way through the session. Thereafter - recuperation, reflection and recovery” (Johnston, 2005, p. 20). It is important that we do not try and squeeze our performance right at the end, but instead allow this time to reflect as a group.
As part of our planning stages, we are always keen to collaborate with our clients. Having planned our workshops, we are enthusiastic to make this work for you and your students. As well as arranging the logistical plans for our arrival, we want your knowledge and input into how our workshops run. This meeting also ensures that what the themes the students are exploring do not conflict with what you have taught at schools.
As visiting facilitators, we understand that some topics that we cover may be of a sensitive nature. We welcome any parents/guardians who do not wish their child to participate in a workshop, then simply state to either the teachers/group leader or indicate on our consent forms, which will be accessible from the teachers/group leaders or you can request one directly from us.