How to plan the learning journey?

This guide is designed dynamically and offers different learning journeys depending on the needs, interests, and opportunities of the participants. Facilitators can select different sessions to create a tailored learning experience each time: from a short introduction to Oral History, to in-depth work on specifics elements of the research methodology such as interviewing, to a full learning journey spread over several weeks or months.

The guide integrates both the theory and practice of Oral History. We hope that the guide will support already existing research projects or will inspire groups to work together on new project ideas. Throughout the guide, you will find reference to the Notes and Tips for Facilitators for actions to take if your group is doing a research project. Keep in mind that this is an intense learning experience, and might benefit from some breathing room between sessions.

Explore example agendas for an idea of the flexibility of possible learning journeys:

  • A 4-day workshop for a group of enthusiastic young people studying law and human rights, working in different fields related to missing persons in Lebanon after the Civil War.
  • A 5-day workshop with a diverse group of Libyan activists, who have backgrounds in conducting research, wanting to get ideas about how to use oral history in their work around transitional justice in Libya.
  • A 13-week full learning journey designed for a group working together continuously over approximately 3 months, doing 2 sessions per week. If there is time only for 1 session per week, then the time frame would extend to over 26 weeks or approximately 6 months.

How is each sessions set up?

Each session includes:

  • An introduction for the facilitator with the objectives of the session.
  • Time and preparation, including handouts to be printed and any kind of preparation material needed for the session. If you are in a continuous learning journey, the participants can be given the reading material before the session.
  • Steps for facilitating the session.
  • Notes and tips for facilitators, which includes notes on content and facilitation tips related to the session.
  • Sources and further reading, which includes links to resources that can support the facilitator and that can be shared with the participants if they are interested in further in-depth knowledge.

The facilitation techniques that are most frequently used in the learning journey are:

  • Warm-up: most sessions start with warm-up to motivate thinking and spark conversations. Discussions here should not be extensive as we are just getting started.
  • Group work: is an effective way to have participants become active learners together. In contrast to individual work, in group settings, participants can build on each other from their experiences, ideas, feelings, thoughts, and observations.
  • Group presentations: are an essential tool for participants to share the findings of their group work. Encourage creativity in the use of visual aids and other material available. Presentations can be made to each other in smaller groups, or each group presents to the plenary, or through a gallery walk.
  • Individual thinking: when needed in the flow of the session, participants will be asked to think individually. This supports the personal learning journey of each participant and, at times, gives space to first thinking individually and then coming together to share.
  • Plenary discussion: as facilitators, we harvest learnings from the participants and build on that discussion. Being familiar with the handouts ourselves, we can offer information that may have been missed by the participants and guide them towards an outline of the full picture.
  • Guiding questions: the individual sessions include guiding questions to support group discussions. However, you are the expert on the group you are working with and the dynamics of the discussion with them. Please feel free to add or adapt, but always aim to make sure changes are linked to the learning objectives of the session itself.

How to facilitate the learning journey?

The sessions are primarily designed around a “learning by doing” methodology, inspired by David Kolb’s experiential learning theory, where participants engage through experience and build conversations among each other to eventually reach the objective of the session together with facilitator guidance. This involves the group learning together with the facilitator in a mutually collaborative relationship of knowledge building, rather than a one-way flow of information from facilitator to participants.

This workshop is not meant to be led by Oral History experts, but for those curious to learn more. For this reason, we have provided Notes and Tips for each session supplemented by Sources and Further Reading as needed. At the beginning of the workshop, introduce yourself as a facilitator who is also learning about Oral History.

Before the sessions, check which preparations might be needed.

  • Print out all handout materials needed for participants ahead of the workshop or as you are going along in the learning journey. Some handouts may need to be cut ahead of time as part of the preparation, that is included in the handouts themselves.
  • You can also provide a folder for each participant where they can gather all material they receive from you.
  • Prepare room set-up: arrange chairs in a U-shape with no tables for participants to lean on, instead have tables distributed outside of the U-shape, around the space, for group work.
  • Throughout the sessions, the following materials will being used. Make sure they are available:
    • Tape
    • Flip chart paper
    • Sound system
    • Laptop/computer
    • Speakers
    • LCD and projector
    • Coloring pens
    • Markers (different colors)
    • Sticky notes (squared and different colors)
    • Notebooks for participants
    • Pens for participants

Before delving into the sessions, formulate a “heart contract”. A heart contract is a set of binding principles that the group proposes and agrees on, and that will help them establish what makes them feel comfortable, excited, and capable of learning together as a group. Draw a big heart on a flip chart and then ask participants to brainstorm and volunteer what makes them comfortable. Write their input in the heart and keep it visible in the workshop place. The session shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes.

At the beginning of the learning journey, it is important to emphasize that in talking about contested history, we may find terms, descriptions, or narratives that not all of us may agree on or with. This is natural and even inevitable when dealing with historical sources.  Working through oral history methodologies we can deal with the particular challenges of multi-perspectivity and its overlap with facts.

Also, the resources mentioned in the sessions are not meant to be adopted by the participants in their entirety, but rather are a tool for learning and experimentation with them.

If you are working with a group for the first time, include a fun session for them to get to know each other. Integrate ice breaking games and energizers whenever possible to keep the energy up!

Use visual aids! At times when guiding questions can be a bit much to remember, you can simply either write the questions on A4 papers using markers or write them on a flip chart and reveal them one by one as you build the discussion.

In plenary discussions, try to build on and summarize participants’ input and bring the questions back to the whole group:

  • What do you think of….?
  • Who would like to add to Nour’s point ….?
  • Who would like to share with us an example of ….?

We ask open-ended questions rather than closed questions (that usually have yes or no answers or one-word answers) to encourage participants to think, express, and share ideas.

We encourage participants to participate without making them feel pressured or embarrassed, and work to ensure equal opportunities for everyone to have their say.

As you go along the learning journey, set aside time to collect and respond to participants’ thoughts and impressions to ensure sure you are getting their feedback to improve sessions or logistics.

Check out the following resources for further tips on facilitation:

Hawli w Hawalaye (About and Around Me): A Children’s Summer Camps Toolkit, (Beirut: forumZFD and Steps, 2019)

Online Training Manual (Beirut: elbarlament, Women Now for Development, and Steps, 2021).

How to adapt for a school setting?

For those working in a school setting, you can adapt sessions based on the school year and integrate the content into existing curricula.

When working with younger participants or in school settings, you can split each session into 45 minutes and adapt accordingly.

When thinking about a way to assess students’ progress, keep in mind that this is a collaborative process. This guide is a great way of working together with your group of students and building relationships with them and among them.

It might be hard to shift your role from teacher to facilitator, read our general facilitation tips for support. The baseline is that together with your students, you are going on a learning journey to challenge historical norms and what we are told about it. You will be learning research skills, critical thinking skills, source analysis, and throughout understanding the value and impact of history on our everyday lives in the hopes of building a better future.

How to adapt for various contexts?

We hope that this dynamic online toolkit becomes a valuable resource for facilitators and groups looking to learn about Oral History in contested history settings and within the framework of Conflict Transformation. While this journey was originally conceived for groups learning about the contested history of the Civil War in Lebanon, the guide was built to adapt to various contexts around the world. “The Case of Lebanon” can be used as a model that can be applied to other countries or contexts.

If you are a facilitator working in a different country and would like to use this material, please go ahead! Below you can find some advice to guide you along:

  • You will need to set aside time to research and find sources relevant to the context of your own contested history to replace the material related to the Civil War in Lebanon and to inspire your own approach.
  • Through all the sessions, you might see reference to the contested history of the Civil War in Lebanon. This a cue or sign for you to refer to your own contested historical context.

Please do reach out if you need some thinking brains to support you while you are preparing for your own learning journey with participants! And please let us know about the different contested historical contexts you adapted the material to.