I was asked recently if I could write a post about conducting workshops in Drama. This is a common assessment task given to students in either the HSC or IB because it allows the student to demonstrate their understanding of a concept in a practical sense. It also provides them with experiential learning examples for their essays which must include some examples of classroom experience. I have used workshops as an assessment in my Approaches to Acting unit which I have posted about previously.
When preparing a workshop I advise my students to structure it as follows:
Group Members: 3-4
1. Outline the Purpose
Introduce yourselves and tell your participants what you will be looking at in your workshop and why. For example, if presenting a workshop on Meyerhold you may choose to only focus on Biomechanics in your workshop. I also suggest allocating one group member for each section of the workshop. That is, one member does the introduction, one or two members conduct the facilitation of the workshop and the final member conducts the wrap-up/reflection section. This is also a good way to spread out the workload and make group members responsible for their work.
2. What Will The Workshop Involve?
I suggest breaking the workshop into several parts. You could try the following combinations:
- Introductory Discussion/Brainstorm, Warm-Up, Core Activity, Reflection/Observation Discussion/Written Task
- Warm-Up, Core Activity, Reflection/Observation Discussion
- Introductory Presentation by Participants, Warm-Up, Core Activity, Reflection/Discussion
Be clear how many parts there will be and what they will be expected to do. If you have any particular rules or guidelines you need your participants to follow mention these up front.
3. Warm-Up or Have a Pre-Workshop Discussion
Depending on who your participants are you may need to gain an understanding of how much your participants know so it would be best to devise two to three questions that links into your workshop’s purpose. If the group already has some understanding of the concepts involved you can ask further questions to promote discussion or perhaps just a basic discussion to get the group focused on your chosen topic.
When warming up, link it to a skill that the participants are going to need to use in the core activity. For example, Statues when presenting a Biomechanics workshop.
4. Have One Group/Whole Class Task
This is your key activity that links to the issue or concept that you workshop has been designed to explore. Break it down into clear instructions so that your participants understand exactly what they need to do. You yourself will need to be clear about what the end product needs to be in order for this to work effectively. That is why clarifying your purpose is so important.
5. Post Workshop Reflection or Discussion
This section is probably the most important because it lets you know whether or not you have been successful in achieving your purpose. Ask participants what they have learned, what they observed from others, how they felt etc. You could ask them to write their responses down on a worksheet with pre prepared questions so that they can use it in their essays. A good way to do this is to pose a question, for example, “How does the Theatre of the Absurd explore the human condition?” Students should try to structure their answer in the following way:
- Answer the question in a sentence or two;
- Elaborate on that answer by explaining it;
- Use a workshop example in a quick recount (HINT: This is the workshop you’ve just given);
- What insights does that example provide (about the style, time period, society etc)?
Follow these steps and I think you will have a fairly well structured, smooth running workshop.