Facilitator Guide

Labs that Work (LTW) is a professional development program, designed to help participants consider their own values and develop their professional skills to manage themselves and their careers. The role of facilitated discussion sessions is to provide structure and space for participants grapple with the material and engage in reflection. The goal of these sessions is not to “teach” content or impose anyone’s views, but rather help guide people through a process together.Interacting with other program participants allows for consideration of different values and perspectives. Being exposed to a diversity of perspectives will extend the value of this program and promote deeper reflection and learning. Group discussions also provide the facilitator (e.g. educator or lab head) a better understanding of students’/lab members’ backgrounds and needs, as well as insights into their own teaching/managing style.Who can benefit from using this guide? Anyone looking for support and ideas about how to structure and facilitate discussions focused on the LTW program. One thing to keep in mind is that facilitation is not a one-size-fits-all. Do what feels most natural to you, using this guide as a roadmap. Expect some discomfort, especially if you are not used to this style of conversation or to discussing these kinds of topics.

Getting Started

Depending on whether you are the head of a lab whose lab members are participating in the LTW program or an educator using the LTW program materials in your classroom you will have different considerations in structuring your discussion sessions. One of the first decisions you will have to make is how frequently you will want to meet and what the focus of those discussions will be. For example:


Your lab members will likely go through the content individually, completing reflections and exercises as they move through the episodes, you may schedule discussions at specific points to keep everyone moving through the program together at the same pace. For example, you ma schedule a discussion at the end of each act. The Advantage of doing the program this way is that everyone in the lab will be learning the content and reflecting on issues at the same time. A possible schedule might be:

  • 5 sessions (8-10 hours total): five 1.5 hour sessions every two weeks (introduction, Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, Module 1 Wrap Up)

Topic Specific Discussions

You may also let members of your lab go through the entire program at their own pace and ask everyone to finish by a specific date. You can then hold discussions on specific topics of the program as a whole. The advantage of this approach is that is gives participants more flexibility in how to proceed through the program. Before you engage in a topic specific discussion session, let participants know they should watch the entire movie and complete the log book sessions for the episodes relevant to the topic (indicated in our facilitator guide). This approach also works well for educators who want to integrate materials from the LTW program into classes to cover certain topics. 

Episode Specific Discussion

You may also want to have a discussion after each episode or certain episodes. This structure will work well for either lab or class; however it is the most time consuming. If your lab participants are going through the logbook at the same time you could devote 20 minutes of your weekly lab meetings to discuss 1 or 2 episodes.

Consideration for Lab Heads

  • Consider whether you want to have a program launch event. Everyone could, for example, watch the film together before embarking on program. The benefit of a launch event is that everyone starts at the same time, and it signals the importance of the program. One of the drawbacks is that the film covers some difficult topics and it may be emotionally draining for people who have experienced some of the situations depicted in the film. Another option would be to watch the first act together only and then everyone can watch the rest on their own time.
  • Consider how new members to the lab will experience the program. One option is that every two years any new lab members who joined will complete the program and you might schedule a refresher session for the whole lab to attend
  • It is important for the lab head to signal to lab members the value of this program and the commitment to rigorous, ethical science and an inclusive lab culture. As a PI you will need to balance your need to be involved with letting members of the lab discuss some things on their own. want lab heads to facilitate some discussions but also maybe consider an outside facilitator. Some questions you might ask yourself as you consider this balance:
    • How open can lab members be in your presence? [maybe be more comfortable to start with science questions; use those as a way to get comfortable with having these kinds of conversation
  • Consider practicing some of the tools and skills presented in the logbook (such as the DMF, And Stance, active listening, asking questions, identifying TRAGEDIES) as a lab. For example, you could ask all lab members to use the And Stance during a lab meeting.

Considerations for Educators

  • Depending on the course you are teaching, your students may go through the entire program and log book on their own and you will use class time to discuss specific topics or episodes throughout the semester; alternatively your students will only do portions of the program that you assign in class.
  • Consider whether you want students to watch the whole movie in advance or in parts, as you go through the materials in your class.
  • If you are leading a workshop you can select videos and discussion prompts related to your topic; you can have workshop participants also complete selected parts of the logbook.

Best Practices for Facilitation

It is okay to have silence in the room to allow participants to think about their responses. When teachers wait at least three to five seconds after a question, they allow time for greater engagement and achievement. Unfortunately, teachers behaving “normally” only tend to wait about one second (Tobin, 1987).

Watch the room and look for balance: there may be some voices that try to speak frequently, leaving others little space to share their own thoughts

  • One protocol that can be helpful is set as a ground rule that you will go around the room and allow everyone to make a comment at some point, possibly the very end.
  • Don’t let one person dominate the conversation. This can be done in a non-threatening way by saying something like, “This is an interesting point and I would like to also hear from some of the people we have not heard from yet.”

Assume power dynamics are present. In facilitating discussion, make sure you encourage everyone to participate, focusing in particular on individuals who have less power in the organization either because of role, positional status, race, gender, or other factors. Encourage people with traditional forms of formal power to do more listening than speaking.

When you develop norms of discussions for the group, encourage participants to think of norms that will foster “shared power.”

  • If you are someone in a position of power, make sure that you don’t dominate the discussion as a facilitator. Stay as impartial as possible. If you want to contribute an idea or experience, tell the group you are switching from facilitator role to express your view as an individual and then step back into your facilitator role.

New grad student Ana Sofia Flores arrives for her first day in the lab of Dr. Jules Sorenson and finds herself immersed in the interpersonal dynamics of a high-productivity research lab. She accompanies postdoc Dr. Jayna Bell to a meeting with colleagues in a collaborating chemistry lab led by Dr. Malcolm Heideberg. Tensions rise over the differing working styles and objectives of the two labs; the chemists and biologists “other” their colleagues based on their disciplines, dismissing their work and its value.

Jules is in a hotel lobby, getting ready to head home from a conference when she learns a pending grant has been awarded. She shares the news with Dr. Evelyn Towne, a colleague who attended the same conference. They talk about what lab growth means as the PI shifts from hands-on involvement in day-to-day activities to a bigger-picture role. Evelyn offers some advice.

As postdoc Dr. Darren Novak is disengaging as he prepares to leave the lab for a faculty position, Harold Wendling, a third-year grad student, is struggling with replicating Darren’s work synthesizing the compound used in the collaboration, much to Darren and Dr.Heideberg’s frustration. Harold and Meena discuss his disappointment.

In an effort to remedy the delays with the collaboration, Dr.Malcolm Heideberg directs Darren to put grad student Meena Anand in charge of the collaboration under Darren’s supervision.

Jules Sorenson returns to the lab. Lab manager Dr. Loretta Wenstrup brings up items requiring her urgent attention. Jayna talks to Jules about her frustration with the Heideberg lab. Jules throws the lead back to Jayna for resolving this issue and asks Jayna to take Ana Sofia under her wing.

Darren informs Meena of Dr.Heideberg’s decision to move responsibility for the collaboration with the Sorenson lab to her, in a major blow to Harold.

Grad fellow Alex Park is struggling to find a starting point for his project—and the review for his fellowship is approaching. Loretta notices his struggles and suggests he meets with Jules. Alex is short with Loretta, but reluctantly agrees to a meeting. Alex is frustrated by Jules’ mentoring style, as he is seeking “answers” for what to do.

Jayna feels time pressure and struggles to mentor Ana Sofia, giving her direction to replicate an old experiment to keep her occupied. Ana Sofia cannot understand the lab notebooks, so she consults Alex, who confirms that there is some disarray in the lab protocols. Alex makes a racist comment about Jayna. Acting as an “upstander,” Ana Sofia voices her disapproval.

The male members of the Heideberg lab watch the World Cup at a billiards lounge.Harold sinks the 8 ball and feels his lab status is in jeopardy. He asks Darren for another chance on the synthesis, to no avail. Ana Sofia takes materials to the Heideberg lab and meets Meena, who mentions preparing for an upcoming poster session. A friendship between the two starts to form.

Jules receives an email from Malcom informing her that Darren will be leaving soon, and Meena will take over the collaboration. At the Sorenson lab meeting, Jayna is frustrated by the news, anticipating even more delay in her own work while Meena gets up to speed on the project. Sorenson tries to reassure Jayna, commits to meeting with Ana Sofia, and recognizes the need to meet with Alex again.

Meena describes her experience at the poster session at a Heideberg lab meeting. Malcolm does not notice her visible discomfort about her interactions with conference attendees and with Dr. Brennan. Later, she describes to Darren and Harold Brennan’s inappropriate behavior toward her. They do not give her support, and make it worse.

Jules Sorenson has a mentoring meeting with Alex. She fails to hear or understand Alex’s concerns. Alex leaves feeling frustrated.Ana Sofia and Jules still have not had their meeting.

Meena talks to Ana Sofia about her frustrations with the poster session. Ana Sofia coaches Meena on personal scripts, helps her process the experience, and gives her resources going forward.

Jayna encounters racial microaggressions in the department mailroom.Loretta commiserates and provides support. Darren maintains that the problems are on Jayna’s side.

Meena fails, as Harold did, to make the compound. She seeks help from Darren, who insists that all necessary information is in the notes. Harold arrives late to lab and is called out by Malcolm for his tardiness. Meena persuades Harold that the two of them should talk to Malcolm tomorrow to ask for help.

Ana Sofia looks over the electronic notes for her lab and cannot make sense of them. She shows Jules the online materials she finds confusing. Jules and Loretta agree this is a problem and decide to overhaul the lab’s data management protocols.

Loretta notices that Alex is still struggling to get started on his project. She gets to the bottom of his struggles and persuades him to have another conversation with Jules with her there to help. Jules is surprised, as she’d thought the previous meeting with Alex went well. Loretta suggests that Alex might need more direct guidance.

Meena works all night in the lab. Later, she tries to convince Harold to talk with Malcolm about the project, but he cannot face it and hurries away. Meena talks to Malcolm about needing Darren to help figure out the synthesis problem. He reluctantly agrees and puts the responsibility back on them.

Jayna continues to be frustrated by the lack of compounds from the Heideberg lab and seeks intervention from Jules.Jules advises that Jayna use this as practice for the kind of problem-solving she will need to do when she has her own lab. Jayna reluctantly accepts this plan.

Elliot Barr, the Director of Graduate Studies for the Chemistry Department, visits Malcom to inform him about Harold’s attempted suicide and departure from the university. Malcolm is dumbstruck and suggests Harold hasn’t been doing well in the lab. Elliot Barr explains that the lab will start a program focused on healthy and inclusive labs.

Malcolm Heideberg tells his lab that Harold has left without mentioning why, though some lab members– including Meena–know the truth. Malcolm requiresDarren to work through the synthesis with Meena to root out the problem that is holding things up.

Jules Sorenson engaged in self-reflection and realizes that her students have gotten a bit lost in the shuffle. She and Loretta agree to work together to create a better mentoring system and data management protocols.

Darren and Meena go through the synthesis together and discover an error made by Darren. It doesn’t explain everything; the compound’s color is still off. Together, they discover that the base material is incorrect. Darren doesn’t want to share that with the Sorenson lab, but Heideberg insists on transparency. Darren realizes the complications of this as it relates to Harold and rationalizes that he would have washed out anyway. Meena calls Harold to explain the issues with the compound.

Malcolm emails Jules to explain the delays with the synthesis. The two of them have coffee to discuss theissues with the collaboration. They work together on more clarity about how the collaboration will work; Jules raises the issue of the disrespectful treatment Jayna experienced in the Heideberg lab.

Jules meets with Alex and Loretta. Alex explains how he needs a firm hand to help kickstart his project. Jules realizes that she needs to adapt her mentoring style. Alex apologizes to Loretta.

Jules talks to Ana Sofia about their mentoring relationship and taking the lead on a data management plan. Ana Sofia is excited to start her first major project.

The Heideberg lab has figured out the problems; Jayna is vindicated. Jules advises Jayna about next steps in the collaboration and suggests a colleague of color to augment Jayna’s network. Jayna happily agrees to guide Ana Sofia’s work to research the stereoisomer.

This session will provide a general overview of the course and the materials. You can expect to discuss the following during this session: 

  • Set expectations for the discussion sessions.
  • Agree on guidelines of behavior for discussion sessions.
  • Identify and reflect on personal goals for this program.
  • Identify and discuss the characteristics of cultures of excellence.
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Episode Guide

New grad student Ana Sofia Flores arrives for her first day in the lab of Dr. Jules Sorenson and finds herself immersed in the interpersonal dynamics of a high-productivity research lab. She accompanies postdoc Dr. Jayna Bell to a meeting with colleagues in a collaborating chemistry lab led by Dr. Malcolm Heideberg. Tensions rise over the differing working styles and objectives of the two labs; the chemists and biologists “other” their colleagues based on their disciplines, dismissing their work and its value.

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Labs That Work For Everyone is a collaboration between the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Center for Principled Leadership & Research Ethics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.