Webinar: How to host an agricultural extension workshop


This Horticulture Innovation Lab webinar lays out the process for designing and hosting an effective agricultural extension workshop. Topics include working with stakeholders to understand their needs and context, designing content, strategies for keeping workshops interactive, and logistics for setting up a workshop. This was the sixth webinar in the Horticulture for Development Professional Series, held live on August 29, 2019.

Rashmi Ekka, with Agribusiness Associates and Sal International, was the speaker for this webinar. She provided an overview of the process for delivering and hosting an effective agricultural extension workshop. This process focuses on understanding principles of adult learning, workshop basics and planning, logistics, strategies and tools to use during the workshop, as well as what happens afterwards.

This summary includes the recorded webinar video presentation, the presenter's slides, and additional resources referenced in the presentation.

Principles of adult learning

In order to deliver an effective agricultural extension workshop, understanding your audience and the way they learn is essential. For adult learners, there are numerous factors that are important to consider when developing your workshop content, delivery methods, and even logistics in terms of multimedia use, timing of breaks, and duration of the meeting.

Ekka highlighted six fundamental principles of adult learning:

  • Self-directed: A need to understand the value of what is being learned
  • Learn by doing: Active and hands on learning
  • Link to previous experiences: Pull from previous experiences
  • Relevance: Must see how it is important to them
  • Personal development: How this will benefit them
  • Fun: They must enjoy what they are learning

Developing content for extension workshops

Prior to hosting an agricultural extension workshop, a planning or design phase must take place in order to answer some critical questions of who, what, where, when, and why? For example:

  • Who will the workshop be intended for?
  • What are the goals or objectives?
  • Where will the workshop take place and for how long?
  • Most importantly, why is this workshop important? 

One approach that Ekka recommended is to use canvassing. This entails mapping out all areas important to stakeholders understanding their pain points, needs and what they stand to gain. This provides an opportunity to test your assumptions against the reality of your audience and develop a stronger understanding of your learner's needs. 

Many adult learners who participate in workshops are making sacrifices to attend. This can include time spent, being away from family, having to travel far distances to attend, or costs associated with attending. Taking these factors into consideration will help develop a workshop that is appropriate and delivers impact and development to participants. 

Workshop logistics and planning

Understanding your learners and developing appropriate content takes up a significant portion of workshop development. In order to ensure objectives are achieved and the workshop runs smoothly, numerous logistical details need to be planned. Depending on where a workshop may be held, it is important to plan ahead for renting a venue or space where activities will occur, gathering any audio and video equipment and testing it on site, purchasing materials and supplies such as flip charts, pens, etc. These items can be planned out well in advance once the workshop's location and number of participants are identified.

Meals and refreshments may also be provided, which may require coordinating with a catering company. Other administrative components to plan a successful workshop may entail arranging accommodation for participants, travel arrangements, reimbursements for costs, and any payments needed for trainers who deliver the workshop. 

Due to the level of effort required for content development as well as logistical preparations, it is important to have the appropriate amount of labor support and to establish clear responsibilities. Aside from a trainer and co-trainer, having someone take care of procurement of the venue, catering, and materials can be helpful.

Ekka also shared that it can be useful to involve other colleagues during the workshop to conduct icebreakers or other activities so that trainers can focus on ensuring they are meeting learners' needs and goals. 

Workshop engagement and evaluation

One of the key adult learning principles shared during this webinar is that adults learn best by doing. Designing a workshop that has a sufficient level of hands-on activities will better allow participants to connect with the content and solidify knowledge that can be used after the workshop.

Demonstration sites can be established in which groups rotate through stations during the workshop. Sufficient time should be allotted for these activities.

At the end of a workshop, it is helpful to evaluate what the audience has learned. One useful method for evaluating what participants learned is to conduct a closing activity. This is an engaging time where attendees will share their own experience and voice what they learned as a result of the workshop. By taking the time to think of key highlights and how they will use what they learned going forward, participants make stronger connections between the content and their everyday work.

Conducting pre-workshop and post-workshop evaluations also enables trainers to better gauge what participants learned. This ensures the content met the workshop's objectives and provides an opportunity for iteration of future workshops using the same content or activities.

After the workshop

Learning and engagement does not end once the workshop is completed. Efforts should be made to follow up with participants to see how they are incorporating what they learned into their jobs or everyday life.

Events can be arranged to bring participants back together. Other useful tools are social network groups such as WhatsApp or Facebook that provide virtual spaces for participants to network and continue their discussions.

It is also helpful to connect participants to other resources and local contacts where they may seek additional questions or support. This provides participants with a sense of direction if they want to follow up on a topic or are having difficulties integrating concepts into their work.