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Designing Collaborative Workshops

Feedback and Evaluation

Examples of collecting feedback and evaluation.

Example 1: Evaluation of workshop from Seeds for Change

From http://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/tools#evaluating

Multimedia Feedback

If you have recording equipment, even a mobile phone then it can be fun do some recording as feedback. Some groups will be uncomfortable being filmed and you can use an audio recorder. instead.

You can pass the recording device around a circle and ask people to share their thoughts on the workshop. This can be a good way to focus the group at the end of a long session and to really reflect on what they are taking away.

This activity is similar to the 'go round' evaluation activity however it can be published as a way of promoting the aims of the workshop to give greater profile for the groups involved and activities or projects that may need more publicity. This works especially well in workshops were you are teaching recording skills, eg. radio or video making.

Mixing this feedback, evaluation and recording can create issues. People may be less willing to share honestly. Be aware of this.

Giving Feedback

Feedback helps people learn from their experiences. Sometimes participants can offer feedback to each other, but the facilitator's contribution can be vital. You have the benefit of preparation and probably a better knowledge of the topic, and that will help make sure participants come away with something useful. Plan in debrief sessions at the end of practical activities and roleplays, and be ready to offer feedback to participants throughout the workshop.

Positive feedback

It helps to start with the positive feedback - many of us aren't very good at recognising our own abilities, so it's important to tell people what their strengths are so they can build on them. Giving positive feedback first also helps make people more receptive to being told what could be improved.

Specific feedback is more helpful. If we say something general like 'That was brilliant!' people often don't believe us. If you try to pinpoint what the person did and what effect it had then you are providing the whole group with strategies they can use in future. So, for example, rather than 'You did well', try 'When you transplanted the seedlings you left plenty of soil round their roots, which means they are more likely to survive.' If you're giving feedback to a group, direct comments at named individuals where appropriate. We learn better when feedback is made relevant to us: 'Joanna, you followed the safety procedure well when you checked your knot before beginning to climb.'

Negative feedback

Don't shy away from negative feedback - it is very useful for learning. Think carefully about how you offer it though. First of all work out whether you have really spotted someone doing or saying something that is 'wrong' or do they just have a different idea from you? Next decide whether it is in the interests of the group for you to point it out.

Finally work out how to bring it up. Be very clear whether you are offering a personal impression, a difference of opinion or something you are factually sure about. Starting with the word I can show you know your impressions are subjective: 'I felt that your clenched fists made you come across as aggressive.' Telling people where your information comes from can help them trust you and make it seem less personal: 'I checked the HMRC website this morning, and in fact what the law says is...' Again, the more specific you can be the better. Limit your comments to criticising what people did and not who they are. There's a world of difference between saying 'You didn't secure your harness,' and 'You're a liability!' Negative feedback is most useful if you can follow it up with ideas about how things could be done differently. For example, 'You held the seedlings by the stem - doing this can more easily damage the plant than if you hold it by the leaves.'

Evaluating the workshop together with the group allows you to check that the workshop has met the group’s expectations and gives you ideas for improvement.


Build at least five minutes evaluation time into each workshop plan. Don’t just evaluate the content. Ask questions about the quality of your facilitation, whether you met expectations, the pace and length of the workshop, etc. You can also ask if there are other workshops the group would like. Here are three evaluation tools:

Go­Round / shout out

  • ask participants to say things that worked well and things that didn’t ask them to be honest, as it’ll help you learn how to do it better next time. Be open to criticism listen for what went wrong and how they think you could improve. You can reflect later on whether you agree or not.

More of ... Less of .. the same...

  • Divide a flip chart into three columns: more, less and the same. Hand out pens and ask participants to write down things that worked well for them in the 'same' column, things they wanted to see less of, e.g. 'use of jargon' and more of e.g. 'chances to practice new skills'. Encourage people to include reasons for what they are saying and then leave them to it to encourage honesty.

Evaluation form

– prepare a form that has room for comments and maybe a way to score

different aspects of the session. Evaluation forms take a bit longer to fill in, but you can glean more information than with other methods. Phrase questions neutrally. Encourage people to fill it in straight away, or you will never get it back. NB: take lots of pens with you – that way no­-one has an excuse not to fill it in there and then!

For more ideas you can look at: Facilitation Tools for Meetings and Workshops

Facilitator’s debrief


  • Debriefing workshops is essential for learning from our mistakes and improving future workshops. You can do it on your own, with your co­facilitator if you have one, or with someone else.

Debriefs are a great way to deal with any problems in communication between co­facilitators, and can be a very creative process. It’s amazing how much of the detail you’ll forget after a week, so do the debrief as soon as you can after the workshop. A suggestion for structuring your debrief:

  • Overall: what went well/less well?

  • How was the relationship with the co­facilitator?

  • Go through each exercise: what went well/less well? (whoever facilitated the session gives their feedback first, then the co­ facilitator offers feedback.

More resources on Evaluation from Seeds for Change



Example 2: Closing circle and Evaluations by Aspiration Tech / CC BY-SA

Closing circle

An excellent way to start the closing circle is with another go-round. In this go-round, it works well to invite participants to share one of the following:

  • Something they learned, especially an “ah-ha” or revelation
  • An opinion or attitude that was changed
  • A way in which they plan to apply their experiences from the event in their own organization.

It may be appropriate to hold a short brainstorming session on how to continue collaboration and momentum of the event; inviting participants to consider closing circle not as a conclusion but as a transition into future collaboration is an excellent metaphor.

It is also advisable to open the floor for several “popcorn”-style observations:

  • Additional comments about the event and sessions
  • Remaining questions or issues not resolved during the day
  • Brief comments and quick announcements by participants (care should be taken to avoid “sales pitches” or other overly self-serving announcements)

Event organizers should be very sure offer extensive thank-you's while everyone is together at closing circle:

  • Thank venue host and other providers of logistic support.
  • Thank facilitators for their wisdom, efforts and contributions
  • Thank the participants for taking the time to be present, remain present, and give so much to the event.
  • Thank anyone else you can think of early and often.

At some point before or after closing circle, participants should fill out evaluation forms. See the section “Event Evaluation and Follow-up” for more information.

Closing circles are best when kept short and sweet; try to finish closing circle in a timely fashion and then directly adjourn to a post-event venue for beverages and extended socializing.


An important component of a successful event is soliciting participant feedback. Aspiration events are an ongoing experiment in how to effectively expose nonprofits and NGOs to technology and inspire them to explore further. Realizing such goals requires a “customer-focused” model where feedback is used to inform planning and design of future events.

Closing circle is usually an appropriate place to hand out evaluation forms. It is recommended this be done before or after the circle, so that people are not filling them out while others are talking and closure is being established. After the closing circle is an intuitive time for evaluations, but the down side of waiting is that participants may be inclined to hurry their responses or unable to finish before they must leave. An alternative is to allot 10 or 15 minutes before closing circle for evaluations; this also helps participants to focus their thoughts before final go-rounds and comments.

A sample Evaluation Form is provided as a separate document.

Task: How will you close your workshop?

Plan for how you will end your workshop, and how you plan to collect feedback. Post your plan in the comments below.

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