Saturday, October 5, 2013

Technology of participation (ToP) – practical, useful, basic facilitation methods for increasing learning results in teaching

"Teach and train what inspires you!” This is an advice I got long time ago from a French teacher, when I was participating in a language course in Paris. “Read and study what interests you and teach what inspires you!”, he said. “This always makes learning easy! Because it gives energy!” “Inspiration from a teacher, always has an impact on others”.  “So study and teach, what you like to teach!”
This life story always comes back to me, when I train facilitators and teachers in the Technology of Participation Techniques (ToP). It is always fun to create an atmosphere of involvement and participation! The techniques are useful tools to optimize people’s/ student’s participation in the classroom. ToP has been developed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs – USA. In 1997 I was trained as a senior trainer in ToP methods in Phoenix, USA. There I had the opportunity to meet professionals in education, youth work and social work on how they had integrated the ToP basic facilitation methods in their work.  These visits inspired me to become a facilitator and trainer in facilitation and participatory educational techniques, as I am currently today. 


The Technology of Participation (ToP) methods
The ToP methods are basic facilitation methods, which have been tested in more than 50 countries around the world, in 24 time zones in various sectors in profit and non-profit organizations. The methods are simple, participatory, user friendly and have proven to be effective in different cultural settings around the world. The methods are culturally worldwide accepted and effective.
The ToP facilitation methods consist of 4 basic methods:

1. The Basic Conversation Method; A focus group discussion technique, that enables people to share observations, emotions, meaning and decisions.

2. The Brainstorm Workshop Method; A brainstorm method which generates ideas and perspectives from a core question assessing the knowledge in a group. Gradually the facilitator guides the group in bringing together individual ideas into prioritized and summarized answers, based on a consensus. Finally, the group reflects  and takes decisions on how it wants to move forward.
3. Action planning; In a 2 – 4 hour process, the group is taken through a journey of vizualisation, assessing the current reality, goal and commitment formulation, action and time planning. This technique enables groups to plan project in an efficient and participatory way.
4. Participatory Strategic Planning; The group is taken through a process of identifying its values and beliefs and is guided in formulating its mission and vision statement. In the current situation the group takes a step back and reflects on its fears and barriers. From there strategic choices are priortized and selected and concretisized into an operational plan of action. This method enables to ensure active participation of key stakeholders in strategic decision making.


Practical and useful for teaching and training
Each time when I conduct a training, teach a lesson or facilitate a workshop, I apply elements of the ToP methodology.  The Basic Conversation method is very practical in discussing video’s, role plays, literature, relevant key topics or even resolving difficult situations or conflicts in a group. I apply it regularly in monitoring and evaluation trajectories. The Basic Conversation Method can excellently be embedded in the Adult Learning Cycle (KOLB) for teaching practices. By asking questions, already a lot of knowledge and information is gathered from the group, before adding additional knowledge by the teacher or experts in the theoretical phase of the lesson.
The brainstorm workshop method is powerful in visualization and planning processes. It involves every member in the group and supports building ownership and consensus step by step. I apply this method many times in teaching and training situations for identifying the existing knowledge in the group.  It also fits perfectly in the Adult Learning Cycle (KOLB), and is a useful tool for monitoring and evaluation.
Technology of Participation (ToP) in The Netherlands
Training in the Technology of Participation methods are conducted by Facili2transform inThe Netherlands. Read more about ToP Training courses Group Facilitation Methods (GFM) and Participatory Strategic Planning (PSP).

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