Adults have different learning needs than children.  The best training sessions for adult audience teach sufficient content as well as help develop the professional skills and attitudes of the participants.

As a general rule, people learn better when they are active and are able to participate in the learning process.  This is particularly true of skills and attitudes.  Participants are more likely to retain information when various styles of presentation are used.  On average, participants will need to hear information six or more times to understand the information and its relevance to a given situation.  Repetition is important, but different presentation styles also facilitate different types of learning (cognitive, affective, behavioral).

There are several training techniques that can be used to assure active participation an adult audience.  The methods discussed below are suggested for use with groups of 12-20 people.

It is not necessary to limit yourself to one training technique throughout an entire session.  Utilization of various methods not only facilitates increased attention and productivity of group members, but also mirrors real-life situations that may necessitate simultaneous employment of several models of behavior. Furthermore, facilitators should rotate techniques: circle – small groups – mini-lectures – small groups – brainstorming – work in pairs – joint work of the whole group – small groups– role-playing game, etc.


During introductions, or when it is necessary for all the participants to give a short response outlining their opinion, facilitators may utilize the circle technique. With this technique, participants are seated in a circle facing one another, one participant volunteers to begin and the rest follow him or her in order.


What is it and why it is useful?

Brainstorming is a conference technique, which rather quickly pools the maximum amount of ideas and opinions on a given problem. This method is not only useful in generating ideas, but is also effective in finding solutions to the problems in question.

Principles of brainstorming

The success of brainstorming depends on two main principles:

1) Group can produce better quality ideas when joining forces than each participant can produce when working alone. Even an impractical idea can be developed and further improved by the group.

2) To generate new ideas, the environment should be informal and friendly, and people should be unconstrained.

These principles are the foundation for the Rules of brainstorming:

  • Withholding judgment. Statements are accepted without comments
  • Encouragement of ideas. Emphasis is made on the quantity of suggestions, not quality
  • Build on the ideas put forward by others
  • Equality of all participants and ideas

How to conduct a brainstorming session

Explain the goals of the brainstorming session first: "The goal of our brainstorming session is to develop guidelines as to how the group would like to work together". Articulate this task in full to the group and then note it down briefly as a title on the blackboard or sheet of paper.

Next, introduce the procedure to the group by explaining the main rules, clarifying in more detail when necessary.  Emphasize that after completing the list of ideas, each participant will have a chance to discuss any suggestions, and that the process of brainstorming itself is designed to generate as many ideas as possible, not to evaluate their quality.  It is important to mention any time limits, so that the group knows how long they have to accomplish the process. All ideas should be noted down in the same words as articulated by the participants.

Upon completing the brainstorming, organize and discuss suggested proposals and articulate each idea in a well-formed statement.

If at some point the group stops generating new ideas, you may move them along by adding your recommendations or comments.

Have one member of the training team organize the ideas and distribute them to the group later in the program.

Small group discussions

What is it and why it is useful?

Facilitators very often form small groups when working with participants to make it possible for them to share ideas through discussion.  Especially when time is limited, this technique allows for all the participants to express their opinions, discuss the problem in a more convenient and comfortable setting, and helps the participants to communicate more openly with each other.

How to conduct small group discussions

1) Divide the large group into groups of 4 – 5 persons (if the size of the large group allows; in case of smaller groups, working in pairs might be a good option);

2) Clearly state the task you want the participants to complete;

3) Allot 5-15 minutes to complete the task;

4) Ask the participants of the small groups to share and discuss their experience and joint ideas with the larger group.


What is it and why it is useful?

Most exercises implement the feedback technique.  This allows the facilitator to uncover possible reasons for any misconceptions or unsatisfactory understanding of new ideas and information.

How to implement feedback technique

1) The facilitators ask questions at the beginning of the exercise to learn to what extent the participants are familiar with the subject, and to introduce them to it.

2) At the end of the exercise facilitators ask questions to see what the participants learned from the class and to strengthen their understanding of the subject matter.

Guided discussion 

What is it and why it is useful?

During the training exercises the facilitators should encourage a group discussion of the problem providing the participants freedom to express their opinions about the problem and proposals for its resolution.  Guided discussion of new information is used to help participants develop a better understanding of the training material.

How to conduct a guided discussion

1) Guided discussion is conducted through using the “question-answer” technique.

2) The group is guided towards the desired conclusion through a sequence of short and concise questions to which they are asked to provide concrete short answers.

3) The questions should be formulated in a way that will help guide the group toward understanding the problem.

4) If someone in the group makes an erroneous conclusion, it is preferable not to point it out, but rather to bring the group to the correct conclusion through a chain of questions.

5) After the questions have been answered, the facilitator should analyze and discuss the responses, and summarize the group’s conclusions.

Role-playing or simulation

What is it and why it is useful?

Role-playing, or "learning through acting", is a technique that requires participants to perform a task in a realistic situation simulating "real life".  This type of exercise is an effective means to take in and absorb the content and substance of new ideas.  It facilitates an active understanding of the information and gives participants the opportunity to apply new skills and abilities.  The simulation serves as a rehearsal on how to conduct future activities.  By recreating models of real situations, which "play out" a problematic scenario, the participants are given the opportunity to see the situation from perspectives other than those they might be taking in reality.  Both the participants and the facilitators have an opportunity to see “hidden obstacles” that may arise in dealing with the problem and can then explore alternative ways of addressing them.

The participants not only rehearse their own behavior in a particular situation, but also have the opportunity as a group to evaluate how effective the staged resolution of the problem actually was.

Role-playing is one of the effective methods to learn and gain experience.  An individual is likely to remember their personal feelings more intensely and for a longer period of time.  The role game helps to analyze how people behave in a certain situation, how to evaluate and predict their reactions.  Therefore, to gain the maximum effect from the role game, proposed situations should be as close to reality as possible.

How to conduct a role-playing exercise

There are three stages to a standard role-play exercise: (1) the set-up, (2) the play, (3) the follow up.  1

Setting up:

In the set up stage, the training team describes the scenario and assigns roles to the participants.  If the participant plays a particular role in reality, it would be more effective to assign a different role to that participant during the role-play exercise.

Another option is to put together a single page description of the scenario to be worked out by the role-play participants.

Alternatively, it may be useful to write one-paragraph descriptions of the key role players.  A description can include the main objectives and concerns of the person in that role, perhaps can include some key dialogues or a statement to be read by the person playing the role.

The Play Stage: 

During the play stage, the participants act out their roles and the play is carried out.

If the role-play becomes too long, then the facilitators can give the participants a time warning of one or two minutes, and then end the play after that.

The Follow Up: 

It is important for all the participants to discuss what happened during the role-play.  They may question individual role-players to ask why they took a particular position, made a certain statement, or undertook an action.  The explanation and the resulting discussion is important for the participants to obtain a greater understanding of the social dynamics related to a particular "real life" situation.

Sometimes a role-play session may generate strong emotions (anger, dismay, disagreement), especially if some role-players take the play too seriously, and take extreme positions.  The follow-up discussions offer the facilitators an opening to explain that these reactions were caused by the structure of the situation, not by the stubbornness of the individuals playing the roles.  It is not necessary to avoid strong emotions; rather, it is an opportunity to reveal the nature of some "real-life" situations, and to encourage participants to be sensitive to the different assumptions, values, goals and positions that may be taken by different persons actually in "real life".

See the Tips for Facilitators page for more information on when to use role playing.  The model session from the addressing the problem block also exemplifies the use of the role play technique.


What is it and why it is useful?

Mini-lectures (10-15 minutes long) provide an opportunity to deliver new information necessary for future work that would assist the participants in better comprehending the problem and making correct conclusions.

How to conduct a mini-lecture

1) It is important to remember that the facilitators’ mission is not only to offer the required information, but also to convince the group members that this information is important for considering and resolving the given problem. Therefore, mini-lectures often include additional questions or a short exchange of ideas;

2) Mini-lectures conclude with a collective discussion or exercise, where participants can apply the new information in practice;

3) It is desirable to distribute the information discussed during the mini-lecture in printed hand-outs.

Resource exercises

Resource exercises are activities that supply the training session participants with the required resources to accomplish psychologically complex exercises, and to develop self-defense mechanisms against unpleasant memories and experiences.  Resource exercises also assist the group in the quickest possible recovery after discussing concrete, tragic cases of violence against women.

The resource exercises include "icebreaker", or getting acquainted exercises, aimed at relaxation and releasing tension, increasing participants’ comfort level and group cohesion, developing an atmosphere of mutual support, etc.  These exercises can be used to set a tone for the time a group will be together during training. Icebreakers should not be used to avoid dealing with anxiety but rather to provide a less threatening environment.

Other training methods include:

Self-tests given before, during or after the course

The purpose of the self-tests is to determine what the participants already know about the issue in question, to monitor their progress during the training workshop, and to assess the knowledge and skills that have been acquired or developed as a result of the training course.  A typical self-test consists of:

1) True or false questions

2) Matching

3) Ranking issues

Case study 

What is it and why it is useful?

Case studies typically examine the interplay of all variables in order to provide as complete an understanding of an event or situation as possible.  This type of comprehensive understanding is arrived at through an in-depth description of the situation being evaluated, the circumstances under which it occurred, the characteristics of the people involved in it, and the nature of the community in which it is located.  Case studies allow the participants the exposure to settings and contexts that they might not otherwise experience.  However, it is important to remember that if the case study is based on a real life situation, the names of those involved should be changed.  For an example of how a case study is used in a training session click here.

How to conduct a case study exercise

1) Distribute written hand-outs; or write the case on a flipchart or blackboard so all participants can read and analyze it together;

2) Have the participants discuss the case;

3) Have all participants give some type of response, either written or oral (it would be helpful to have a format for the participants to follow, e. g. a set of questions and tasks to help structure the discussion.


1) May be video taped.

2) May be live and spontaneous.

3) If instructors are doing the demonstration, they should rehearse it.

4) If participants are included, select people who are not likely to be embarrassed to present in front of the group.

Field trips

1) Group visits to a relevant institution may provide valuable perspectives.

2) The purpose of the visit should be explained in advance, and participants should be instructed to pay attention and record their observations.

Panel discussion

1) Composed of a panel of presenters or experts.  A panel discussion is particularly effective when presenters have expertise in different aspects of a topic.

2) One presenter should act as a facilitator to enable the greatest possible participation and to provide a summary at the end of the discussion.

3) Should include exchanges between panel members themselves and between panel members and the participants.


1. Adapted from Role Playing and Simulation Games: A Training Technique, by Phil Bartle, PhD.

What is a Training  |  Needs Assessment  |  Goals and Objectives

Organizing a Training Workshop  |  [Preparing the Training Program]  |  Conducting Exercises  |   Training Methods  |  Tips for Facilitators  |  [Model Sessions]  |  Final Remarks

Guidelines for Developing a Training Program

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