Facilitation Camp: Day Three

Designing a Learning Event

About this day

This day is anchored by the idea that designing a successful learning event is more than just the writing up of a lesson plan. It involves educators asking a range of questions to understand the participants (who); the immediate situation or context that makes this workshop necessary (why); the timeframe allocated to the learning event (when); where it will take place; what we are looking to achieve (what for?/objectives)whatcontent will be used to reach the learning objectives as well as the range of participatory activities and techniques that will be used to facilitate the learning process (how). The answers to these questions make up what Jane Vella calls the seven steps of planning a learning event. Lesson design also involves the use of certain creative techniques with clear intentions and learning materials and visual aids like readings and handouts, video and audio clips, film, photographs and social media extracts.  

As we start the day, it is useful to remember that:

“Workshop planning is itself a creative process, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Remember, this will get easier with time, especially as you become more familiar with the different activities.” –John Marnell and Gabriel Hoosain Khan, Creative Resistance: Participatory Methods for Engaging Queer Youth.

While making room flexibility and being guided by dynamics in a learning space, it is important for facilitators to put in enough time and thought to the design process.

“When design is complete, it will be a reliable podium for the educator to rest on. The safety of the educator is as important in adult learning as the safety of the learners”– Jane Vella, Learning to listen/Learning to teach, 2002. 

Objectives for this day:

At the end of this day participants should understand the different elements that go into designing a learning programme. Participants will also put these skills to practice by designing their own workshops and critically reflecting on how they might apply learning design steps in the future. Throughout the day, we will do, surface what we do, critically reflect on what we have done and think about what we might change in future. 

Day activity sessions:

A warm-up, recap and evaluation 

Activity 1: What makes a good learning event?

Activity 2: A ‘mock’ occupations workshop: mapping occupations 

Activity 3: Occupations – different interpretations 

Activity 4: The reflection march

Activity 5: Designing your own learning event 

Activity 1: What makes a good learning event?

1 hour 30 minutes 

Aims:         To help us to:

  • reflect on what makes a good learning event using our experiences 
  • generate some of the key ideas and practices that go into designing a good learning event
  • experiment with a technique called “sculpturing” and explore its potential use in learning activities

About:        The facilitator will introduce this activity and give an overview and demonstration of a technique called sculpturing (or creating statues). This technique is a useful way of reflecting on and capturing our understanding and knowledge of a specific theme – in this case, our understanding of what we think makes a good learning event.

Task 1:       You will be divided into 5 groups. In your groups, take 5 minutes to look at an outline of the 5 Umthombo sessions on the transition to democracy. On your own reflect on these questions: 

  • Think about a memorable learning session from the 5 Umthombo wolwazi sessions held from September 2020. What is the one thingthat made this session memorable? 

Jot your answer down on a sticky note 

  • Now think about a learning session from the 5 Umthombo wolwazi sessions that you did not enjoy as much (one that you would rather forget). What is the one thingthat made this not enjoyable? Jot your answer down on a sticky note

Share your reflections as a group and agree on a list of 5 thingsthat make a learning event memorable or forgettable. Write your list newsprint.

You have 30 minutes for this task

Task 2:       Prepare to report by creating two sculptures – one that shows a forgettablesession and another that shows amemorable session. Feel free to use chairs, tables and any other props in the room. Prepare to display these two moments to plenary. 

You have 15 minutes to practice and create your sculptures.  

Task 3:       Each group will have a chance to display their two moments and receive feedback from the rest of the class. From your sculptures, the facilitators will produce a synthesis of what makes a good learning event. 

                  We have 45 minutes for this task

 & A note about this activity…. For more on sculpturing as a technique and how to use it, refer to Rick Arnold and Bev Burke, A popular education handbook: an educational experience taken from Central America and adapted to the Canadian context, Chapter 3, page 30 – 32.  

Activity 2: Mapping land occupations (a mock workshop)

1 hour 30 minutes 

Aims:         To help us to:

About:        Since the imposition of the lockdown, there has been a wave of occupations on different vacant pieces of land. Participants will locate themselves in the context of occupations and establish the extent of proximity to the site of this struggle. The learning tasks will attempt to deepen an understanding of how moments of struggle can be framed into a programme of education that can be useful in processes of mobilisation.By focusing on the reality of current land occupations in Khayelitsha, this session will engage participants in learning tasks and activities that show how one might think of the process of designing a learning event. 

Task 1:       You will be divided into 6 groups. Each group will have colour makers and newsprint as resources. Divide your newsprint into 4 or 6 sections. In your groups, each participant should get a chance to draw a picture of their home and trace a route that takes you to the nearest occupation in Khayelitsha.  Once you have all drawn your pictures think about how close or far your home is from an occupation. If you live in an occupation, please draw this too. Think about people you may know that live in occupations – friends, comrades, relatives around Khayelitsha. 

                  Hang your group’s drawing up on the wall once you are done. We will all gather around the wall and look at what is in front of us. The facilitator will ask a small sample to present on their drawings and ask the rest of us the question: what is the emerging picture here? 

                  We have 30 minutes for this task

Task 2:       What is the bigger picture here? The facilitator will use this question as a springboard into an input that frames the workshop, defines occupations and locates the participants’ experiences of occupations in Khayelitsha within the bigger picture of land struggles and the housing crisis in Cape Town. 

                  This presentation will make use of a map of Cape Town, images and colour pins. 

We have 30 minutes for an input with some discussion 

Task 3:       Why do we occupy? Participants will go back to their original groups. Each group will have flipchart paper, colour markers and a statement from a person currently living in an occupation. The statement will be in the form of an answer to the question “why do we occupy?”. In your groups, build on this statement by listing more reasons that lead people to occupy land. Start with the sentence “We occupy because……”and take it from there. 

In plenary, one group will serve as our “strikers” – the first to present their reasons for occupying land and then allowing other groups to build on this by adding what is missing or what needs emphasis. The facilitator will give a synthesisthat helps us to move on to the next activity. 

                  We have 30 minutes for this task

 Note to participants: This is a mock workshop used to demonstrate how to put together a learning event. At the end of the workshop, we will ask you to reflect on the different stages and components. The facilitators have made a number of assumptions in putting this workshop together.    

Activity 3: Occupations – different interpretations

45 minutes

Aims:         To help us to:

About:        Every Thursday activists from occupations all over Cape Town meet at Tshisimani in Mowbray. This weekly assembly of occupiers is a space for activists to share latest developments in the occupations, discuss strategy and express solidarity with each other. Last Thursday the activists at the assembly mandated you to attend a TV studio debate as an audience. They already know what the City thinks of their actions, but they want to hear other views. Your task is to listen to the different views on occupations presented at this debate. The three views are as follows: 

View 1:       Occupations are necessary and legitimate forms of protest and spaces to rebuild and reimagine!

                  Extracts from: Reclaim the City’s Cape Town occupations are opportun… (dailymaverick.co.za)

View 2:       Occupations divert municipal resources away from development and set the poor against each other!

                  A voice note from a community leader in Khayelitsha

View 3:       Without purposeful action and planning, land occupations open the door for dangerous opportunism


Task:          Your task is to report back to the assembly. At the end of each presentation, take a moment to note 1 point that makes the view appealing. At the end of the debate, you should have 3 pieces of paper (report cards), each with a point that makes each of the three views appealing. Think about who is more likely to support each view.    

                  The host will do a quick polling to get a sense of what the audience think. Keep your report cards for next week Thursday. 

                  We have 45 minutes for this task

Activity 4:     The reflection march 

30 minutes

Aims:         To help us to:

  • Gain an overview of our learning experience by identifying the different components of what made our occupations workshop
  • Reflect on why certain techniques were used at different stages 
  • Show, surface and critically reflect on the choices facilitators make when designing learning events

About:        This activity brings us to the end of the mock occupations workshop. It is a moment to step back and do the analysis. “Can you tell why?” Together, we will use this question as a guide to our reflection march.

Task 1:       The reflection march: The facilitator will ask three volunteers to take us through the different stages of the workshop. The volunteers will rely on their recollections and the flipchart displays on the wall. At each stop, participants will think about these questions.

  • What did you find most useful about this “workshop”?
  • Are there some elements you felt were missing or did not quite fit? 
  • How could you do a similar workshop in fewer steps or motions?
  • Are there other techniques you might use to reach the same objectives? 

This is an opportunity for you to ask questions and make comments. Facilitators will reveal why they used certain techniques and, in their synthesis, explain how this step prepares us for our next big task.  

                  We have 30 minutes for this task

Activity 5:     Designing a learning event 

2 hours 15 mins 

Aims:         To help us to:

  • Introduce participants to the key elements of designing a successful learning event 
  • Apply these skills to create future workshops 

Task 1:       Most educators agree that a successful workshop or learning event relies on following a number of steps. In popular education – a learner centred way of doing education – the questions we ask before a workshop are important for making the learning event a success. The facilitator will introduce Jane Vella’s 7 steps of planning a learning event. 

On your own, read the handout on the 7 steps of lesson design. Pair up with your neighbour and share what you think of these 7 steps of lesson design. 

  • Pick one step and think about how you would explain it to a comrade who did not attend this workshop?  
  • Are there any examples you can think of to help make these steps clearer?

                  Prepare to share your thoughts in plenary for discussion. Before moving on to the next task, we will ask 7 volunteersto reveal the steps and read (from the bottom-up) what each step involves.  

                  We have 30 minutes for this task

Task 3:       You will be divided into small groups to plan and prepare for a 3-hourworkshop. Use the 7 steps as guide to designing your workshop. 

Each group will have a resource pack with colour pens, butcher’s paper, a few magazines, and a selection of teaching aids. 

                  In your groups, choose: 

A person to act as a scribe 

A person to report-back

A person to act as a process watcher (time keeping and observing how the group works)

A facilitator will also be on stand-by for any questions and help you might need. 

                  To get us started, we have selected some possible topics that you could use in your planning. These are just suggestions, feel free to come up with your own topics/themes!

  • Gangs and policing in Khayelitsha 
  • The collapse of the rail system and it affects ordinary people
  • Budget cuts and how they affect basic education
  • Youth unemployment and the Basic Income Grant

You have 60 minutes for this task

All the groups will report back in plenary.  A synthesis from the facilitator and a closing circle will conclude our day. 

We have 45 minutes for this task. 

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