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Workshop guidelines


Photo: Jeremy Murphy

Think about a time when someone taught you something. What made that learning experience effective? What made the person a good teacher/tutor/helper/facilitator etc? No matter how you choose to deliver your free school workshop, here are some tips to help make it the best possible experience for your participants.


Challenge yourself and your participants. Free school’s vision statement is about creating a better world – obviously we have a lot of work to do! Try to frame your topic in a way that encourages deeper thinking. Question assumptions. Get to the bottom of things. Already know a lot about your topic? Challenge yourself to uncover something new, update your knowledge, or get it across to others in a way that inspires their passion.


Come up with goals. What do you want people to get out of your workshop? Figure this out before you start planning – it’ll help you stay focused and on track. You might also consider: how will you know if you’ve achieved your goal?


Plan well (but stay flexible). Make an agenda. Figure out what kind of space and materials you need. Be ready to adapt to unforeseen circumstances.


Involve your participants. Most people can’t pay attention to a person talking for more than 15 minutes, and there are many simple things you can do to make your workshop engaging and interactive. Ask lots of questions. Prepare a discussion question to get people talking to each other, perhaps in small groups. Ask people to write something down. Get them out of their seats. Any sort of variety from a typical classroom-lecture experience will go a long way!


Use visual aids. Not strictly necessary, but often helpful to make a point more memorable.


A note on powerpoint. Powerpoint can be a useful presentation tool, however, its overuse is less engaging for an audience, particularly if it is used for extended presentations. Logistically, it is also more difficult to accommodate as most workshops are given in barns, sheds, or outdoors. As such, powerpoint use is discouraged, however, special accomodations may be made if it is really essential to your presentation (e.g. supporting illustrations). These arrangements must be made in advance by indicating this requirement on your workshop proposal form.


Monitor your participants. Observe and check in with people. How are they doing? Are things working well? Is a change of pace needed? A good guideline might be “leave them wanting more.”


Need some suggestions? Want to check in with the free school programming team about your workshop? We’re here to help! E-mail hillary at and someone will get back to you.