Building Workshops Using a Framework

Think about the last time you attended a workshop or class.




What was it like?

Take a minute  and think about the experience .

Grab some Post-it notes

Write down things that went well and things that did not go well during that class.

Draw a “plus- delta” diagram like the one below on a whiteboard or other material.


Take all the Post-its that reflect things that went well and place them under the plus sign.  These are things we would keep if we were the instructor of this class or workshop.

Take all the Post-its that reflect things that did not go well and place them under the delta or triangle  sign. These are things we would change if we were the instructor of this class or workshop.

The result is a neatly categorized things to keep and things to change  diagram.



Do the descriptions below match you recollection of the event and capture some of the delta Post-its?

Did  you attended a workshop or class that involved a subject matter expert who talked at you?

Did they simply regurgitate knowledge, or even worse read from a Power Point presentation or book?

Once you memorized or absorbed a certain amount of knowledge did you have to take  a multiple guess test to received a grade or certification?

Did you actually learn anything?

I doubt it.


What did you just learn?

You learned how to do a reflective exercise we call plus- delta. This is a great exercise to conduct at the end of your class, workshop, or meeting to gather feedback from your students, customers, or colleagues. You can find more info on the exercise here: http://in2books.epals.com/content.aspx?caid=Reading_Strategy&divid=Plus_Delta_Chart

We will revisit this and other reflective exercises as we move through this website. You also learned that bad workshops and classes really are quite useless in helping people to actually learn things.


How do we begin to create good workshops and classes?

It turns out that we do have a pretty good idea about how people learn. Lets explore some basic principles and tools to get an overview of how we might approach this.


It starts with Design.

You saw that coming!

The diagram below represents the flow and phases of design-thinking. We can use a design-thinking process to help us build our workshops and classes. Take a minute and examine the circles.

Ideas - 42

Design begins with  Empathy

Lets move through the process one step at a time.

When using the Design-Thinking process to create solutions we start by building empathy for the people for whom we are designing, crafting a solution, product, or workshop.

Just what is Empathy all about?

Philosopher and author Roman Krznaric has a great introduction video on the topic:


Empathy as a Force in Design

Good design starts with empathy or as Mr.Krznaric says  ” cognitive empathy”.  By practicing cognitive empathy we are able to look outside ourselves and  view the world while walking in another person’s shoes. It is the unplugging  from our introspective view to an  outrospective view that helps us to identify the problems,challenges, and the needs of others.

IDEO,  the global force in Design, has a great article on design empathy which can be found here:


By letting go of our preconceived notions and truly trying to understand the environment in which a problem exists we can craft creative and innovative solutions.

We can also develop a deeper understanding of who our students are and what their needs, wants, and wishes are. Only then can we start to  create a class or workshop that can meet those needs.

Yes it seems simple but it actually will require us to think differently.

By engaging with our students in this manner we start to build the human connection between them and ourselves. We also change the power dynamic of the student teacher relationship. It is no longer student – teacher and begins to develop into to people sharing goals and ideas. The most powerful instructional relationships are bi-directional. Adult learners in particular bring, skills, hopes, and ambitions that are a tremendous resource. The tag line for Slate37 is learn-teach-learn.  You will learn from this healthy dynamic engagement. That learning will inform your teaching and the cycle repeats.

We need to approach our adult learners as partners in learning.

Lets do just that!

Here is a great tool that we can use to start thinking about how gain insight and empathy.

We can start the process of understanding our adult learners by using an empathy map created by SH!FT



As you can see Empathy is important and a vital part of Design-Thinking. PivotWerks is a Design-Thinking company and we use those principles when developing training resources or workshops. By using the above map and associated questions, we can start to design a workshop that will be rewarding to attend and satisfy both the workshops sponsor’s needs and the individual student’s needs, wants, and wishes.

Take some time and write down some answers to the questions in the sections of the empathy map shown above.  If you are unsure of the answer perhaps some research needs to be done. Once you can answer all of the questions, review your answers with the person who is asking your to teach this workshop or class. Once these answers are reviewed and refined we will have gone a long way towards  moving from empathize to define.

You simply cannot build a good workshop, class, product, or program unless you can understand the environment and define the problem. If there is only one thing that you take away from this site that is it.


Next Steps