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.
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.
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.