Tips on Planning a Project 2061 Workshop


Drawing on the collective experience of the many teachers, workshop presenters, and consultants who have worked with Project 2061 to develop this Guide, we offer the following suggestions and advice in the hope that it will make your job easier and more rewarding. The planning steps outlined here will be most useful to those who will be designing and conducting workshops for the first time. However, according to our own workshop experts, experienced presenters are also likely to benefit by reviewing this procedure.

1. Find out who the participants will be.

Many kinds of groups want to understand and use Science for All Americans (SFAA) and Benchmarks for Science Literacy (Benchmarks). Project 2061 offers workshops for teachers and principals, teacher educators, curriculum and materials developers, policy makers and funders, parents and community leaders, and others. These groups come to workshops with different backgrounds, experience, and education.

When planning a workshop for any group, talk with the sponsor about the group’s needs and expectations. One group may not yet fully understand the impact of science illiteracy on all of society and may need a strong initial focus on this impact. You may need to spend considerable time explaining the purpose and content of Science for All Americans (SFAA) before you acquaint participants with Benchmarks for Science Literacy (Benchmarks).

Members of another group, however, may be highly motivated to participate in the reform of science education immediately. They have already read SFAA. For this group, you would design a different sort of workshop, perhaps beginning with an activity where participants recall and share an interesting idea in SFAA and then proceed to study of Benchmarks and use of the tools for science literacy to meet their particular needs.

2. Find out about other important factors affecting your workshop.

In your initial conversation with the person requesting the workshop, find out what constraints might affect your workshop design; for example, location, space, number of participants, time, equipment, and so forth.

Length of workshop. Research tells us that single-session staff development is largely ineffective for most purposes. Therefore, whenever possible, schedule a series of sessions. In practice, however, it will often be necessary to schedule single sessions. In these cases, please encourage the workshop sponsors to schedule follow-up sessions and discuss with them what could be included.

When planning single sessions, explain that it is difficult to do justice to Project 2061 and its tools for science literacy if your presentation is less than four hours. If possible, ask for a time slot of a day or more. Ask your sponsor whether he or she plans to use some of the allotted time for announcements and other group matters.

Setting and equipment. The setting in which your workshop occurs will affect the quality of the experience. Whenever possible, have participants seated comfortably around tables to facilitate group interaction. School libraries are often ideal settings for workshops. If participants must be seated in rows, plan special strategies to allow for participant interaction.

For most Benchmarks workshops you will need an overhead projector and screen, for some a VCR and monitor, and for others a laboratory setting and equipment. Be sure to let the workshop sponsor know well in advance what your needs will be.

Number of participants. You can have an effective Project 2061 workshop with large or small numbers of participants as long as you plan accordingly. Some of the teaching strategies used in the options may need to be modified for large groups in order to allow for participant interaction.

3. Schedule time to prepare for the workshop.

Consult your calendar and set aside time for preparing materials you will need for the workshop:

You may wish to ask the workshop sponsor to copy or provide some materials; be sure to provide clear instructions and adequate time.

4. Develop your workshop plan.

You will probably find it best to develop your detailed plan and your agenda for participants simultaneously. Identify the workshop goals for the group you are serving. Express these on your agenda and on a transparency. (See Possible Goals for Project 2061 Workshops in Chapter 5: Selected Readings for a list of knowledge and attitudes about Project 2061 that you might want to convey to workshop participants, together with misconceptions about the Project that you may encounter.) Turn to Chapter 2: Designing a Project 2061 Workshop to begin planning your workshop agenda. Use the Sample Workshop Agendas in this Guide as planning models. Key questions and transitional statements are especially important.

Indicate the time allotted for each workshop segment on your plan and on your agenda. Be sure to schedule breaks that are long enough and frequent enough. Two hours is probably the longest time participants can go without a break. If your participant groups will need to move among several locations, be sure to allow time for this.

Plan to use effective teaching strategies, especially those outlined in Science for All Americans, pp. 197-207 (Chapter 13 on this disk). The following practices are particularly important:

5. Gather and prepare the materials for the workshop.

Transparencies with small type should always be accompanied by a handout. Prepare a few extra handouts and items for hands-on activities and be sure to set aside at least one set for your own files.

6. Review your plans to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.

Think your way through the entire workshop, visualizing what you will use, hold, and distribute throughout the entire event. Then do this again to make sure you have remembered every detail. Ask yourself what items you may need to have in duplicate. View any videos you will use and preset the tape to the segment you want to show.

7. Practice your presentation.

8. Prepare a short statement about yourself that your workshop sponsor can use in introducing you.

9. On the day of the workshop, arrive early enough to handle unexpected emergencies.

10. During the workshop, deviate from your script only as advisable to take advantage of the participants’ interests, experiences, and questions.

11. After the workshop, review the participants’ evaluations and reflect on what went well and what you would do differently another time.

For each workshop, develop a file that includes your plan, your own evaluation notes, your complete set of handouts, and participant evaluations. Keep this file for reference in case the same group asks you to present again and to help you plan for other workshops.

Steps to Workshop Success 
  • Consider the participants 
  • Consider the setting 
  • Schedule preparation time 
  • Develop detailed plan and agenda 
  • Prepare materials 
  • Review plans 
  • Practice 
  • Prepare a short bio 
  • Arrive early 
  • Take advantage of the participants’ interests, experiences, questions
  • Review and reflect