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Education and Training Guide

What is in this guide?

  1. Why we use education and training in organisations
  2. What we need to know about education events
  3. How to plan and prepare for an education event
  4. How to design a workshop
  5. How to use common training methods

  1. Why we use education and training in organisation

Education in organisations is different from school education. Schools mostly train students to understand a subject well enough to pass an exam. Schools also deal with young people and usually teaches them information that is new to them.

The education work organisations do for members, or for the community, is very different. The goal is usually to empower people so that they can become active contributors to the process of change. Internal education helps members to understand and contribute to the work of the organisation. Community education communicates information or campaign messages and can be used to empower, mobilise and organise people.

Education programmes can help your organisation to:

In the broader community you work in, education programmes can be used to:

There are many types of education and training programmes – for example:

Organisational education and training can be built into the work of the organisation and it can be a specific educational event or series of events.

  1. Education as part of your organisational work:

Educators need to see all the things that happen in their organisation as opportunity to educate members. It is easier for members to learn while they prepare for actions or campaigns, they learn while doing the work and also while they analyse and evaluate the impact of what was done.

All leaders need to understand the importance of education in an organisation. They must feel that they are responsible for educating members and to plan activities in such a way that members learn from the process. The following process can also assist in educating members:

Programme of action

Start by developing a Programme of Action for the year. This programme tells you what your priorities are and what major campaigns and other work you will do. This is a process where you will discuss and sometimes argue about what the organisation must do (strategic priorities) and then develop an action plan.


The second step deals with plans of the organisation for that particular year. Throughout the year you plan the day-to-day work you must carry out, you decide exactly what you want to achieve what you have to do, when and who will do it. It involves working out how the action relates to the programme of action, an analysis of your strength and weaknesses at this time, a discussion of possible things to do, selecting the best action and planning it in detail. Training workshops should be organised to make sure members have the skills to implement plans.

Action and struggle

The next phase is called Action and struggle. It is the stage of putting your plans into practice. Out of your action, you discover new challenges and new conditions, which you have to take into account when you plan the programme of action for the next year. Your action must involve ordinary members because it will provide them with more opportunities to learn, than an action, which we watch our leaders carrying out. For example going door to door and collecting signatures can teach members about how the organisation is seen by the public and how to answer questions, which requires a practical understanding of policies of the organisation.

Analysing and evaluating

This is the most important part of organisational work, in terms of education. It is about doing the analysis and evaluating the impact of the action of an organisation, the people you want to reach and the situation as a whole. This will assist in future planning so that you avoid the mistakes committed in the previous action. If you do thorough evaluation you can sharpen your understanding of how your organisation works, what strategies work or do not work under what conditions, and how to take your work forward.

  1. Educational events

You also need to have an education programme, which is separate from the programme of action. This education programme can be a series of workshops, educational inputs as part of branch meetings, seminars and study groups. The education programme must be based on and closely related to the strategic priorities of the organisation.

It must also deal with current concerns and issues that come up and help members of the organisation to understand the causes of the issue, the organisation's response to it and how it affects the organisation's strategic priorities.

This guide is not a comprehensive manual on adult education, but aims to help organisations to develop better workshops for education and training programmes. It covers basic information about education and training as well as guidelines for designing workshops and for using different training methods.

  1. Important things to know about education and training

  1. Adult education theories

If the people that you will be educating are adults, then you need to run your education events in a way that recognises that they have a lot of knowledge and experience. You need to recognise and respect their experience and build on it. The members in your organisation are not "empty vessels" that need to be filled with knowledge. They have experience of their day to day life and they often have experience of work in organisation. They might not know everything, but you must build on their knowledge.

Always remember the following when educating adults:

  1. How people learn

Some studies have shown that it is only possible to learn something if you have a bit of knowledge or understanding already about the subject..

We all learn by taking in and using information. People take information through all senses, especially our eyes and ears. But we also learn more when we involve more parts of our brain, e.g. talking, writing and doing. The more senses we use, the easier it is to remember what we have learnt.

When you plan your education events make sure that your learners have an opportunity to listen to the speaker, look at teaching aids, talk about what they learned and practice the skills or information they have gained.

  1. Four basic learning steps in a workshop

Every workshop or education event should use four basic steps of learning:

  1. Starting with experience

In this step find out what your participants know about the topic. , What problems they have, what questions they have and how they feel about the issue. All this information is important because people learn better when the learning is related to their real life experience and they will feel motivated to learn and to teach each other.

  1. Deepen understanding

Since experience is not the only way people learn; allow your learners to think about their experience and how it relates to the experience of other people and the topic. In other words you put their experience into context.

  1. Move to theory

It is here that you can build on what they already know by giving learners new information. This can be in the form of an input or a talk, etc. You can also introduce theory to help them understand the issue better. You can also teach your learners new skills to help them to deal with the problem or issue.

  1. Move to Action

In this stage of an education event, you put what you have learned into practice. You do this by practicing the skills you have learned and planning how you will put what you have learned into practice in your organisations or planning an action.

  1. How to plan and prepare for an education even

  1. Find out the needs

The people in the organisation will always need education and training to be useful in the organisation. Since there are different groups of people in the organisation, they have different education and training needs. Their education needs are for information, for skills or for change in attitudes. As an educator ensure that the education event you are planning for different people answers their real needs.

Questions you can ask when finding out the education or training needs of the organisation are:

Questions you can ask when finding education and training needs of members are:

  1. Decide the aim of your education programme

Once you have identified the education and training needs of your organisation, you can start working out the aims of the education programme. The AIM is what you want to achieve by having an education programme. The aims of your education event are based on your organisation's plans and needs, and on the needs of your members. An example of an aim for an education sub committee will be: "To develop the leadership skills of our executive so as to improve the way we work inside the organisation and in relation to the public."

  1. Set clear objectives

What are objectives?

Objectives are statements that tell you what exactly you want to achieve and are more specific and practical than your aims. They are what people want to know or will be able to do after the education event. An example of an objective for the above aim is:

"The executive members should be able to chair meetings so that they are an efficient and useful forum for decision-making, with good participation and able to finish on time."

Why do you need objectives?

Objectives are important because they tell you what you want to achieve by each session of an education event or workshop. This helps you to develop a proper programme, content and method for your workshop.

They also help learners to work out what they are supposed to learn and what they should ignore. As an educator you can also evaluate your education programmes or events more easily if your objectives are clear from the onset. Using the same example of teaching leadership skills to the executive, it can be difficult to decide whether an education event helped them develop leadership skills - but it can be possible to evaluate whether they learned to run efficient meetings. You can see after the training session whether meetings are shorter, more decisions are made and carried out.

How to set objectives

  1. You need to start by defining what your aim is and then think about what specifically you want to achieve with the education event.
  2. Before you can set realistic objectives, first think about your target trainees and who they are. Ask questions like:

What will they use the training for?
What do they know already?
What language they speak?
Are they used to workshops?
Can they read and write?
Are they men and/or women?
How many are they?

  1. Set objectives by following this formula. Your objectives must be SMART:

Simple and clear
Time bound

For example we will train 150 volunteers to do basic first aid within the next 5 months.

  1. Decide the content

The education event will depend on your objectives and on the needs of your participants. There are a lot of topics that you might want to include and will not be able to because of limited time in a particular session. It is advisable to be selective in what you cover in one session. To do a selection use the following steps:

  1. List all possible issues that you may cover in a session to be able to achieve your objectives.
  2. Prioritise the most important things and decide what you can include and what you can leave out for now.
  3. Select what you can cover in the time you have. Try to be realistic.
  1. How to design a workshop

Most workshops are easy to design - just remember the principles that you must:

Most workshops should have the following sessions [adapt them for your issue]

  1. Welcome and introduction

Participants need to know your name, what organisation or structure you come from if they do not have that information already. Allow time for them to introduce themselves. It is a good idea for them to find out more about each other if this is going to be a long workshop. Introduce other important people that are attending.

  1. Finding out the participants' expectations and what they hope to learn

In some workshops you need to find out what people's expectations of the session are, and what they would like to learn. If the workshop was planned with participants beforehand and people know why they are there, move straight to the next session.

  1. Aims and objectives

The participants need to know what the aims and objectives of the session are. They also want to know what the agenda or programme is, what is going to be covered and time allocated for each session.

  1. Start with own experience

Use a buzz group or some other participatory method to get participants to discuss what they think or know about the topic. For example in a workshop on economic development you can ask a question like: What are the main problems poor people have in our area? What will improve their lives?

  1. Give people new information, understanding or skills.

Do an input or presentation that gives people a better understanding of the issue or topic.

  1. Apply what was learnt

Have a discussion, task, exercise or role play where people use what they have learnt.

  1. Planning the next step

If an education event is part of building your organisation, then you need to end each education event by planning the next step. You can do this by asking; 'How are you going to implement what you learned in your organisation?' or by including a planning step that works out the way forward, in the actual workshop.

  1. Do an evaluation of the session

The session must end with an opportunity for the participants to say what they thought of the session. The evaluation can be spoken or written, but everyone must be given an opportunity to write or say what they think.

  1. How to use common training methods

There are a lot of methods that can be used in any education event. Many of them can be used together. To make sure that workshops are successful you need to prepare exactly how you will use each method, and choose facilitators for group work if necessary. This section deals with most of the common methods used in workshops or education events. It is divided into the following parts:

  1. Inputs and presentations
  2. Participation
  3. Discussion
  4. Skills practice sessions
  5. Team-building
  6. Ice breakers
  1. Inputs and presentations

Inputs or presentations are used to communicate facts, information and analysis that will help people to develop a better understanding of the issues or topic. Inputs are often used to "teach" people new things. They should be clear, well structured and well presented. Inputs should be backed-up by overhead projector slides or writing on newsprint or a chalk board. People remember things better if they see and hear them. If the information is complex, also give people a handout or manual with more detail.

Before you prepare your input or presentation, think about the objectives of that session. When you have prepared the input, check it against the objectives to make sure it covers everything needed.

Here are some general tips for inputs and presentations:

  • Most people cannot concentrate for more than about 20 minutes at a time – so keep inputs short, lively and stimulating.
  • Use a powerful beginning to grab people’s attention - show that the input is relevant to them and that they will want to know the information you can give.
  • Use visual aids like overhead slides, news prints or chalkboards to show what you will cover and the main points of each part of your input.
  • Make sure you understand your audience and keep the input at the right level for them – avoid jargon and academic language.
  • Keep sentences short and simple – stick to your main points and make sure you get them across.
  • Give people more detail in handouts or manuals.
  • If you use statistics, figures and tables, be careful not to confuse people. Keep it straight and simple. Most people have a mental block against anything that sounds like mathematics.
  • Interrupt your input every now and then by asking the audience questions. Only do this if you feel comfortable with this method – it can sometimes make you lose track of where you are in the input.
  • Repeating the same information a few times is a very boring method used by some teachers – rather try to keep people’s attention and get your main points across well. Back it up with visual aids and written materials so that people can remember more easily.
  • End strongly with a clear statement about the topic, the way forward, etc.
  • Always allow for questions and contributions from the floor, unless you are moving straight to a participatory method where people will have a chance to discuss the issues raised in the input.

Tips for visual aids

  • Do not put too much information on visual aids.
  • Write big so that even people with bad eyes can see it from the back of the room. [Overhead slides should be at least 22 point format]
  • Do not get too fancy – make sure your main points come across clearly.


Instead of making a formal input, in some cases, you could use a short play or drama to increase people’s understanding or awareness.

For example in a voter education workshop you could use a play to show what happens in the voting station. If you are dealing with violence against women you could use a short play about wife battering. Drama should be scripted or worked out carefully and rehearsed. You must make sure the lessons you want people to learn, do come across clearly.

If you are using drama to demonstrate good ways of doing something, for example: chairing a meeting, the things you show should generally be more positive than negative. This is so that people learn what to do and not just what not to do. If you want to show the bad ways, also show the good ones afterwards. Tell your participants/actors not to overdo the action just to get laughs - this can make it difficult for the other actors to show good ways of dealing with the situation and they may lose control.

Videos or slide shows

Videos, films and slide shows can be very good ways of getting facts and information across to people. People concentrate easier on something that is like TV, than on a speech. Make sure the show you use is appropriate and makes the main points that you want.

Remember to give people a handout with the main things they need to know – no-one makes notes during a movie!

  1. Participation

There are many different methods you can use to get better participation. This section deals with quick and relatively superficial participation. The next section deals with in depth discussions.

It is important to keep people involved and engaged with the content of the training. If you have to do a lot of inputs, try to break them up with some of the methods listed below.


This method is used to get people to engage with an issue by having a brief discussion with the two people person sitting next to them, about a specific question or issue for 3 to 5 minutes. Ask one person from each buzz group to tell the big group what they think about that issue. Get each group to just report one point and go on until all the points emerge. Buzz groups are helpful to allow everyone to participate and to get a feeling for the groups concerns and understanding.


Brainstorms are used to get participation from the floor during a plenary session. The facilitator puts a question on newsprint/overhead and asks participants to say what they think about the issue. It is a good way to generate lists. For example:' What are the qualities of a good leader' would be a good question for a brainstorm.

Word wheels

Word wheels are large group exercises that give many people a chance to have a short conversation with each other. You can use a word wheel as a mini simulation where both people talk to each other or as a communication, icebreaker or awareness raising exercise where you ask one person at a time to speak and the other to listen. It is an easy way for people to talk to each other and for people who are shy to build confidence to speak in a group. Word wheels are exciting and noisy and people enjoy participating in them.

A word wheel is made up of two circles, one inside the other. Ask half the trainees to come to an open space in the front or back of the venue and to form a circle. Then ask the other half to form a circle around the first group so that everyone is standing opposite one other person. Tell them that they will be called the inside circle and the outside circle and that they must be quiet whenever you clap hands so that everyone can hear your instructions.

People will talk to the person opposite them and when you tell them, the outside circle will move one step to their right so that everyone now faces a new person. Every time you come to a new person, you must introduce yourself.

Here are some examples of how you can use a word wheel:

  • Getting to know each other exercise:

Ask people in outside circle to speak for one minute on a topic. Then ask people in inside circle to do the same. After that move outside circle along one step to the right and ask the new pair to discuss the next question. If you use this as an exercise for getting to know each other, ask a mix of questions that anyone can answer. For example:

  1. Why you joined this organisation
  2. Who you live with
  3. What were you doing on the day Mandela was released
  4. What would you like to change in the world
  5. The worst time you can remember in our struggle
  6. The most frustrating thing about our work
  7. Does your activism make your personal life difficult
  • Skills practice:

To use a word wheel for skills practice, you should allocate roles to each circle. For example if you are training party workers to do canvassing you can do the following exercise:

  1. Inside circle the voter and the outside circle the party activist:
    Voter asks: Why should I vote for you when you have not delivered any improvements to my community in the last 5 years?
  2. Outside circle move along one to the right, now inside circle is the activist and outside circle the voter:
    Voter asks: Why are politicians getting paid so much while people live in poverty?
  • Discussing issues:

A word wheel can be used to start people thinking about issues you want to cover in a workshop. For example if your workshop is about violence against women, you can use these kind of questions:

  1. Outside circle talk for one minute on "what is rape and why does it happen?"
  2. Inside circle respond for one minute
  3. Outside circle move along one to the right
  4. Inside circle talk for one minute on "Is it true or false that some women ask for it by the way they behave or dress?"
  5. Outside circle respond for one minute

At the end of a word wheel, stress that all the conversations that were interrupted can be continued later. Also try to tie up some of the issues raised in the input that follows.

  1. In-depth discussion

In most workshops you should put some time aside for people to have in-depth discussion in smaller groups.


Policy workshops and conferences usually use commissions [smaller groups] when there are too many issues to discuss them all in depth in a plenary session. Commissions debate issues, make proposals and report these back to the plenary for final decisions to be taken.

Commissions can also be used to get participation by more people in a big workshop by putting them into smaller groups. Groups can be up to 40 people. Each group is given a different topic to discuss and must make reports to plenary. It is used to discuss many topics in a limited time or to work out proposals on an issue.

Commissions should be well chaired and clear questions and introductory inputs should be worked out beforehand. A rapporteur and scribe should be appointed and work together to produce the verbal and written reports needed. It sometimes helps to have a chair and a facilitator working together – the chair runs the meeting process and the facilitator intervenes to summarise, re-direct or speed things up.

Small groups

Small groups are used in workshops to get better participation, have in depth discussion or do exercises or tasks. Small groups should have between 3 to 10 participants. This method is used to allow in-depth discussion of a topic or question or to make a decision on something. A facilitator asks the group to choose a chairperson and someone to report back on behalf of the group. After the time allocated to groups has expired, get each group to report in the big group. Groups can be asked to discuss the same topic or each group can be given a different topic from others to discuss and report back on.

Small groups usually need a rapporteur and a facilitator or chair, depending on the objectives of the exercise.

Facilitation tips

  • Work out very clear objectives for your commission or small group and then design the questions.
  • Never have more than three questions per hour of discussion and keep the question straight and simple.
  • Do a short input or introduction at the beginning to bring everyone to a common understanding and to focus the discussion on the key issues.
  • Explain that everyone should get the opportunity to speak and appeal to people who are more confident to give others a chance as well.
  • A facilitator is a very active chair – do not simply point to the next speaker, but keep the discussion focussed and on track. Sum up when needed and get the group to move on.
  • Many people hold up progress because they want the group to fully endorse their view and reject others. Try to suggest compromises or all-inclusive positions rather than just letting the group argue.
  • If a group cannot agree on one position, ask them to suggest a way forward, or do it yourself. Agreement is not always possible and sometimes a report-back to the plenary has to show the different opinions.
  • Avoid dialogues and debates developing between two or three individuals and keep on bringing the issue back to the group as a whole. Sometimes one person can sabotage the discussion by sticking to an unpopular position in a very domineering way. Ask the group for permission to move on – this is a good way to isolate a troublemaker. You can even do a quick show of hands vote to check the group’s view on an issue.
  • The worst group to work with is a bored group – make sure you keep things moving and interesting. If no-one responds to an issue or a question, move on and find a more interesting point to focus on.
  • Some people get confused, go off the point or simply talk about their own favourite topic, regardless of the question. Try not to humiliate people, but gently interrupt them and get the discussion back to the point. Say something like: " that is a very interesting point, but our time is short and we must still address the main question. I am going to ask everyone to focus on the last question now."
  • Do not force anyone to speak, but create a comfortable atmosphere where people feel easy about speaking. If you want to encourage quiet people, have a quick buzz in the middle of the session and then ask people to say what others in their buzz group felt. Do not put people on the spot by saying things like: "Well Pete, you are very quiet, what do you think about what Thandi said?" They will be very embarrassed and if they lack confidence they will be scared.
  1. Skills practice sessions

The best way to learn is to make people try out new skills. Always stress that this is a learning exercise and not a test and that people are allowed to make mistakes and we will all learn from them.

Role-plays and simulation

Role plays are used to show a problem or situation and to practice dealing with it. All participants are asked to play roles to learn something from that experience or to apply something they have learnt. Role-plays are short with clear instructions on each, e.g. a canvassing exercise with a difficult voter.

Simulation is the same, but goes on for longer and you can add new elements as you go along, e.g. mediation exercise where everyone pretends to be in a real mediation situation. Or a lobbying exercise where people use the same issue to plan and campaign around.

Case study

Case studies give people a chance to apply their understanding to a real case and to learn from discussing it. This method uses a specific detailed problem, usually in written form. Participants will read it and will then suggest the best possible solutions based on the given facts. They must be prepared to discuss not only their proposals for solutions, but also how and why they reached their decision. It needs proper preparation and the facilitator must give a clear and concise briefing to participants.


Delegates can also be given real tasks as part of skills practice. For example in a campaign workshop, you can ask groups to design a campaign poster and slogan. Or people can develop a campaign strategy and plan that they will implement after the workshop. It is very important to set clear objectives for skills practice sessions and to make sure the exercise achieves the objectives. Always give people feedback about their performance and point out the mistakes they made – or get other people to do that.

  1. Team building exercises

Team building is used to build better working relationships and trust between people who have to work together to make your organisation succeed. It is often used in situations where people have to get to know each other or where relationships have broken down. There should be some point to the exercise, but remember the following guidelines for exercises:

  • They must be fun
  • They must involve everyone
  • They must promote team work
  • Instructions must be clear
  • Do not ask the impossible, but make it challenging
  • Avoid danger and destruction

There are many different team building exercises. It often works best if you break people into smaller teams that compete with each other. Break people into teams of 5-8 people, depending on your numbers. There should be at least two teams. You can make up your own exercises. Here are some examples:

  1. Chair exercise – The purpose of the exercise is to see how many team members can fit on a chair – only do this if you have sturdy metal chairs. No-one is allowed to touch anything other than the chair and those on the chair. Start with three, go up to full team. Combine teams if needed at the end or ask for volunteers to try for 8 on a chair. Have some people standing around the group in case there is a fall. Give teams points according to the number they fitted on the chair.
  2. Treasure hunt – The purpose of this exercise is to collect a list of ten items that may be available in the area within ten minutes. Give teams a list of 10 items on overhead and give them ten minutes to get all items. Choose things that are available at the venue, but add a few scarce things: eg. spare wheel, egg beater, white dog, Adidas trainer. Other things could be red flower, ashtray, picture of of president, disposable nappy, condom, etc. Remember to warn the owners and staff about the exercise and to ask people not to take anything without permission. Give teams point according to the number of items they collected.

Draw lessons for crisis work from how people approached the exercise in terms of planning, coordination, etc.

  1. Make a plan – each exercise is an imaginary situation and the team has ten minutes to use the resources in the venue and in their bags or their clothing to make a plan. Here are two examples:
  • You are back in the 1980’s and all of you have been detained in a communal cell. There is nothing to do and you are bored. Someone suggests that you play volleyball. You have ten minutes to set up a net and make a ball. You may not use any furniture. We need a demonstration of your game at the end. After the ten minutes are up, leave 5 minutes for demonstrations and give teams points out of 5
  • One of you team fell off the chair during the chair exercise and broke both legs. You have to get them to a car, 50m away, without making the breaks worse. Work out how to do this. You can use anything. You have ten minutes and then we want a demonstration. After ten minutes ask for demonstrations and give teams points out of 5
  1. Ice breakers

Ice breakers are exercises that you can use to relax people, introduce them to each other, wake them up or to break the tension and concentration of a heavy session. While most people enjoy them, they must still fit into the objectives of the workshop. Try to use exercises that are short and a bit meaningful to people. It can be very irritating if people come for a serious workshop and the facilitator makes them play meaningless games for half the time available. Here are some examples of icebreakers:

  • Interview the person next to you for 5 minutes and then you will have 30 seconds to tell the group the most interesting thing you found out about them.
  • Introduce yourself to the group as an animal that you identify with and say why.
  • Play "Simon says.." or other game where the group has to follow orders and people fall out when they do something you order when you did not say "Simon says.." first.
  • Break people into groups of four - one attacker, one victim and two defenders. The attacker has to try and grab the victim while the other three hold hands and move around to protect the victim.


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