Author: British Council | Published on 2 January 2023


Look at each of the questions in turn. Think carefully about how they relate to your own training experiences. Then click on each box to see tips, advice, guidance and further information.

1. Think about a recent training session which you attended. Was there a variety of activities? Did you work alone, together with different participants and with the trainer?

A good training session, like a good lesson, should have a balance of activities. If an activity takes too long, then some of the participants may lose interest and begin talking about something else. In addition to trainer-led and whole group activities, you should also include group work, pair work and individual tasks. Regularly changing interaction patterns will energise the trainees and make the session learner-centred. Pair and group work activities also let participants share their experiences and learn from each other. To maximise this opportunity, participants should not always sit and work with the same partners – you should mix the groups up.

2. In this same training session, was the time to complete tasks enough, too much or too little? Did you feel that you were moving at the right speed?

In a good training session – as in a good lesson – trainees feel that they are ‘moving along’ at the right speed. This is what we mean by ‘pace’. A good pace keeps the trainees’ attention. If we have their attention, the learning outcomes and learning experience will be better. Ways that you can ensure a good pace include varying activities and groupings, giving clear time limits and clearly marking the start and end of different activities and stages. Clearly marking transitions (the end of one activity/stage and the start of another) impacts positively on pace. These starts and ends are like signposts, which help trainees feel that the session and their learning is moving along. When participants have clear time limits, they work more efficiently when they know what they what should do and how long they have to do it. 

Remember! To keep the good pace going, you need to be prepared and have all your resources and materials ready. If you are constantly stopping to think about what to do next or to find resources, the pace will slow, so be prepared.

3. What activities could you use in a training session to keep your trainees’ attention and promote learning?

Use a mixture of these simple activities to keep trainees’ attention so that they feel they are ‘moving along’ and learning. When you plan your session, ask yourself these questions: 

  • Have I planned to introduce information in small chunks so that trainees have time to ask questions, think about the content, and do participant-centred activities?
  • Have I included a variety of activities? Is there a mix of energisers and calm, reflective tasks?
  • Have I used a variety of interaction patterns? Is there a mix of trainer-led, group work, pair work and individual activities?
  • Have I allowed the right amount of time for each activity and stage? How will I introduce and finish activities and stages? 

4. Why is ‘change’ important? What can you change during training sessions?

There is a saying that ‘A change is as good as a rest’. Change is interesting and refreshing, and helps participants refocus and learn. In addition to thinking about changing your pace and groupings, also think about changing activities and your position. 


Many good classroom activities can also be used in training to encourage thinking, sharing, discussion, skills development and reflection. e.g.:

  • Lively, fun and energising games, e.g. Backs to the board, Slap the board, etc. 
  • Dynamic, collaborative tasks, e.g. Running dictation, Reading race, etc.
  • Discussion activities, e.g. Onion rings, Pyramid discussion and mingles such as Find someone who, wall crawl etc.
  • Quiet reflective tasks, e.g. 3-2-1 (3 things I’ve learnt; 2 things that surprised me; 1 thing I want to learn more about) 
  • TPR activities, e.g. Stand up if…, Stand on the line (to show degree of agreement) Etc.
  • Situational role plays 
  • Problem-solving activities, e.g. dilemmas and scenarios
  • Creative activities, e.g. group posters, planning activities, making resources  

Using a mix of these will keep your trainees engaged, fresh and ready to learn.


Did you know that our bodies and minds are so connected that physical activity can help us with challenging tasks? In other words, an active mind requires an active body. Sitting for too long is not good. It can lead to disruptive behaviour, becoming distracted and poor concentration. Getting trainees moving – using TPR activities and games, allowing them to stand in groups and discuss or when reading posters or texts on the wall.

There is one thing, however, that you shouldn’t change in a single session – the topic because this would confuse and probably overwhelm the participants.

5. What learning activity types is it important to include during a training session?

In addition to receiving input during a training session, participants also need to develop their understanding at a deeper level and apply the new knowledge. Think about these 5 activity types when planning which activities to use in a session:

  • Understanding new ideas or knowledge: what participants do when they are getting new information from e.g. reading a text, or listening to you the trainer as you present information or model a new skill or technique. 
  • Guided practice/questioning: when the trainer checks participants’ understanding of the new information. You can ask questions and/or use activities to ‘push’ the participants and give them deeper understanding. 
  • Independent practice: when the trainees can work independently because they know what to do and how to do it. They can work alone, in pairs or in groups.
  • Thinking and generating ideas: when participants are trying to understand something or thinking of ideas. They have time to think and/or reflect. They may be thinking of ideas for an activity, brainstorming possible solutions to a problem, or reflecting on why something happened. They may work alone, in pairs or in groups.
  • Discussion: when participants talk to each other to develop their ideas, discuss issues or check their understanding. They work in groups or pairs.

6. How can you control timing and pace?

A common misconception is that the trainer has to go slowly for participants to really understand content. But as we have already discussed, this is not true. We need to change the pace of a session. Sometimes a quick pace encourages participants to engage and respond more actively, and they feel that they are making progress. 

Controlling timing and pace is important because time is limited and we don’t want to waste it, and we want to create lots of opportunities for participants to experience a range of activities. Some techniques you can use to control timing and pace include:

  • Have/use a clock and show it to the trainees when you set the time limits.
  • Give participants ‘odd’ times, e.g. four minutes, not five. If you say ‘five minutes’, people generally understand that to mean 4–6 minutes, but if you say ‘four minutes’, they understand that to really mean four minutes.
  • Set specific goals with the time limits. E.g. say ‘Work in groups. Make a poster to show your top 10 ideas. Use a spidergram or a mind-map. You have 14 minutes.’ not just ‘Make a poster. You have 14 minutes.’
  • Warn participants when there is, e.g. one minute remaining. Count down at the end of simple tasks, but not difficult tasks where trainees need to focus and think a lot. Use short countdowns, e.g. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. 
  • Use your voice. Start short, fast activities with ‘Ready? Go!’ When you want trainees to think and work carefully, speak quietly and slowly. For example, ‘This is an interesting question. Think, take your time, begin’.  

What changes are you going to make in your training sessions to manage learning activities more effectively?

This is up to you! But be confident and try things out. Realise that things will not always work first time – but don’t be discouraged by this. Be honest with yourself afterwards and think why it didn’t work, and make the necessary changes for next time. Get feedback from the participants if you can – they may be able to give you useful information on the way you managed your learning activities.

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