My implementation actually occurred three weeks ago as part of a 10-week Divorce Recovery Workshop series. The design was for one three-hour session. The topic for the session was Grief. Attached is a sample of the facilitator version of the Agenda/lesson plan.
There were many aspects of the implementation that went very well. The timing of the design went smoothly (i.e., all of the mini-events within the three hours flowed together well and we did not go over the time allotment). The aspects of the session for which I had the most control, such as the introduction to the session, centering and connecting exercise, great things, small group discussion and small group exercise went very well. Although the centering and connecting exercise (relaxation exercise) was not a completely foreign concept to the participants, few had ever actually participated in a relaxation/meditation exercise before. They all participated and verbally responded they liked it. Since then we have done different types of centering exercises such as visualization imagery and breathing exercises, also receiving positive feedback. Great things is when the facilitator / moderator asks the participants to volunteer a personal experience from the recent week that was positive. The facilitator acknowledges the experience, models active listening, asks a couple of appropriate questions and then provides positive affirmation to the person. In addition, the group also claps for them. This was a new technique I learned when teaching that has tremendous value for interactivity, self-esteem, and keeping participants focused on the positive. The participants seemed to really enjoy the activity and verbally responded as such. Since that session, great things has been incorporated into each session and the participants have been willing to share. The small group discussion went well. The participants answered the questions posed. The facilitators actively listened, probed and provided feedback. Everyone in each of the small groups had time to process and share information. The small group exercise was also very successful. Every participants worked diligently on the “goodbye letter.” A few of them created very extensive letters. The facilitators also participated in the exercise. Approximately one-half of the participants finished the good-bye letter with about ten minutes left for discussion. Those participants shared their goodbye letters and discussed their feelings regarding same. The other half of the participants worked on completing their good-bye letters on the other side of the room. It was a very moving exercise. I also personally participated and it brought up a great many feelings regarding the loss of my son. I was again struck by the idea of altering the program into a more general emotional recovery support group providing services to anyone who has experienced a great deal of trauma.
The Bad and Ugly
There were a few things that could have been done better. For instance, there were and are numerous constraints at play with this design. There are significant time constraints. Additionally, there are significant stakeholder constraints. Two aspects of the design, in particular, were significant constraints: speakers and materials. The program director insisted that we utilize the same speakers for presentations they had previously. Additionally, I was not allowed to provide any specific guidance as to what the speaker should or should not discuss, other than to provide the topic of the session. As a result, the speakers for the session were not organized, informative or particularly helpful to the participants. There were very nice and they did tell a couple of interesting stories; however, from a return on investment perspective, the time allotted for the speakers could have been better spent in small group discussions, a short video regarding grief and/or many other types of activities. The other significant constraint was the materials. The divorce recovery team could not alter the usage of the devised workbook provided by the church. However, we were able to provide supplementary materials in addition to the workbook. Upon inquiry, the participants told me that they read all of the handouts, but rarely used the workbook from the church.
Another aspect of the design I would have liked to spend more time on was the modification of the goals. Since the presentation, the SME and I have been able to work collaboratively on revising the goals for each of the other sessions. When the series of workshops begins again in the Fall, the goals will have been reframed, allowing for easier evaluation of the success of the session.
Overall, for a first run-through of a modified design for a pseudo-educational/support group program, the implementation went well. The participants responded favorably. Additionally, I was able to discern the necessity for other modifications in the future such as: altering speaker presentation content, either through the provision of materials or removal of the speaker in utilizing another method of instruction, the need for additional facilitator training for some of the leadership team. In particular, there is a husband/wife facilitator team which is not benefitting the participants. They dominated the group conversation with irrelevant topics relating to their own marriage, rather than keeping the focus on the participants, allowing the participants opportunities to share and in some aspects repelling the participants from their small group. Although I brought these issues to the attention of the program director, to date she has not been persuaded to change anything.