Being a humanist confirmation course leader for HEF is a bit like being a teacher, but the freedom to cover whatever topics you what, as long as they come under the core themes of life stances, humanism and human rights, is counter-balanced by the fact that, for most course leaders, you are responsible for a group of fourteen-year-olds, without any real pedagogical training.
That isn’t to say that there isn’t any pedagogical support, however. As part of the humanist confirmation leader course, Cecilie Borborg, a course leader and teacher, shared her tips for running productive sessions.
1. Learn names as soon as possible (it’s the easiest way to establish a personal and warm connection).
2. Be clear with your goals, both for the whole course and with each session. Having clear goals leads to less confusion and better learning outcomes.
3. Always be two steps ahead – of everything.
4. Pay as much attention to the changes between activities as what happens during the activities themselves, as this is when any confusion is most likely to take place.
5. To facilitate changes in activities, establish an attention-grabbing behavior (whistle, hand clap), rather than just asking them to settle down.
6. Give set concrete timeframes for activities, and always give 1 or 5-minute warnings.
Facilitating learning and discussions:
1. Concentrate on the thought processes that led to the answer to the question, not the answer itself.
2. Be sure to give praise and recognition to every contribution. Both and point 1 are essential for facilitating critical reflection and helps when you receive a ‘wrong’ answer.
3. Let the students do as much talking amongst themselves as possible. Their ideas are unlikely to be fully formed; talking helps them construct their meaning and reflect on their opinions.
4. Don’t try to do too much too quickly: allow for sufficient thinking time after each question.
5. For discussions, use the following technique to make sure you get contributions from everyone in the group, and not just the keen, extrovert students:
- Pose a question to the group. Tell them at you will pick someone to answer, rather than someone putting their hand up. If picked, they must provide some sort of answer (although it is, of course, ok to say they don’t know).
- Give them time to think.
- Pick a person at random. To make it, fair draw their name out of a hat or assign them a number from 1 to 6 and roll a die.
- Once the person has answered, either pick another person at random, or open it up for question and responses where students can raise their hands.
- Use Think > Pair > Share for discussions if you have students that are not comfortable sharing their views with the whole group.