TOPIC 2: Name, description, benefits and risks of using methods

TOPIC 2: Name, description, benefits and risks of using methods

In this topic you will get a comprehensive overview of the appropriate methods – their benefits and risks when using them in a community garden.

When dividing the methods of education, we most often see a division according to the way of interaction into frontal, group or individual methods. For simplicity, the methods used in a non-formal education can be classified into two categories – those that promote group dynamics and others that focus more on the topic of our education. They can be easily adapted to different themes and can be used to construct a variety of activities. The training should always be interesting, beneficial and the methods used should be based on the interests and needs of the participants.

Methods to promote group dynamics:

  • Energiser – focuses on activating participants, stirring up energy and/or creating a light atmosphere. It is usually included at the beginning of each part of the training. Energisers do not have to be related to the topics being discussed, but if chosen well, they can open up a new topic in an appropriate way.
  • Icebreaker – focuses mainly on getting to know each other and strengthening interaction between participants. They are mainly used at the beginning of longer training programmes, so that participants learn about each other and find their way to each other.

The most well-known and widely used methods that can be used in community gardens: 

  • Brainstorming – produce as many ideas as possible on a given topic, from which the most suitable ones are then selected. In the first stage it is important to write down all ideas and not to evaluate them in order to encourage creative thinking. In the second phase, ideas are sorted into groups based on the selected criteria. This is most often done in a group and usually takes 5-15 minutes.
    • Techniques: use of flipchart, sticky notes, individual preparation, group preparation…
  • Discussion – exchange of opinions, experiences and different perspectives on a given topic between activity leaders and participants or between participants. The intention may be to reach a common agreement, compromise or consensus, or simply to share experiences. The discussion can be used to open up a new topic or to map out different opinions and perspectives in the group.
    • Techniques: can be done as a whole group or in smaller groups. It can be moderated and have different rules. Can be passed around an imaginary microphone or a form of “speed dating” where participants gradually meet all other group members for 1-2 minutes.
  • Lecture – used to impart new information on a topic and to develop knowledge. Ideally, the topic should be explained using concrete examples from practice.
    • Techniques: various forms of visualization can be chosen (projected presentations, notes on flipchart, pictures, demonstrations including the use of video demonstrations on the topic) and the involvement of participants e.g. through questions, quizzes, show of hands who agrees with a given statement, …
  • Exercise – can contribute to a better understanding of the topic discussed, usually follows the explanation of the theory. The assignment can be individual, for example in the form of a test, or a group. Exercises usually have one or a limited number of correct solutions.
    • Techniques: completing the test online or on paper
  • Group work – takes place when participants are divided into smaller groups and given a specific assignment related to the topic under discussion. Their task is to complete the assignment within a specified time limit. The grouping can be random or targeted, for example according to experience. Assignments can be varied, often have no single correct solution and participants use their previous experience to complete them.
    • Techniques to enliven group work : competition, presentation of outputs by an imaginary reporter or collage.
  • Role-playing – is taking on the identity (role) of another person in order to experience a situation from their perspective. It is important to give the participants the most specific description of the role and at the same time the space to get acquainted with the new identity or to complete it according to their own ideas. It is essential that the participants feel safe in the group. It is really important to help the participants to process the emotions that have taken place, for example through a sensitive final analysis, after the “game” has ended.
    • Techniques: appropriate choice of location, setting, use of music, costumes, etc.
  • Open space technology – meetings on topics proposed by the participants themselves. The topics are first presented to the whole group and, with the support of the facilitator, the group together designs a timetable including the length, the person responsible and the space in which the meeting will take place. Usually, several meetings on different topics are held in parallel with the possibility for participants to choose according to their interest. It is allowed to move seamlessly between the different groups.
  • Reflection – encourages participants to think more deeply about the context. It helps to better understand what is happening, why it is happening, how it is happening and what it means for the participant(s).
    • Techniques: sharing with a talking object (the one who wants to talk – talks), sharing in a circle, first in pairs and then in the whole group.
Additional materials

PEŠEK, Tomáš, Tibor ŠKRABSKÝ, Monika NOVOSÁDOVÁ and Jolana DOČKALOVÁ. Slabikář neformálního vzdělávání v práci s mládeží, 2019, p. 94-108.

ŠERÁK, Michal. Zájmové vzdělávání dospělých, 2009, p. 68

Professional training course for Gardenisers [online], 2020.

HARRISON, Owen. Open Space Technology: A User´s Guide, San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2008