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Workshops - Leading Effective Discussions

Leading Effective Discussions:

Facilitation Skills for Graduate Students & Postdocs

  • Would you like to know how well you are doing in leading discussions?
  • Would you like to improve your presentation skills and/or know how you can positively impact the environment when you participate in committees or meetings where the structure is hierarchical?
  • Do you want to improve your facilitation, leadership and communication skills?

If you answered yes to any of the above, then don’t miss this opportunity to develop important and relevant skills and check out this set of practical and highly participatory facilitation skills workshops (each in-person workshop is 3.5 hours AND starting April 2020 we piloted our virtual version which is 3 hours with a break). 

Why: Successfully learning to lead and guide student discussions requires a range of fairly sophisticated communication skills; many people employ strategies using trial and error as they have never been trained to facilitate discussions. Facilitation allows everyone to express themselves, keeps discussions moving and maintains a safe, respectful group environment. It also gives a practical insight into the hidden curriculum of class or group dynamics. Bonus: Facilitation helps beyond classroom settings as it helps groups have more inclusive and efficient meetings.

Cost: Free! (a "no show" fee may apply)

How: Space is limited - registration now open for the dates below (click on the links below to be directed to the registration form). An email invitation to apply for the workshop is sent and it will be promoted via SKILLSETS and the PGSS Newswire. Click on dates below to be re-directed to our registration forms: 

Facilitation Essentials: TBA


Advanced Facilitation: TBA

Please note taking both sections in order is recommended but participants will benefit from taking either one and may take them in either order.  Also, please contact joan.butterworth [at] () if you want to arrange a custom training of this workshop on alternative date(s) for your department, staff and/or students.

What past participants said about the workshop:

"The workshop helped me to focus on the many things I still need to learn, and allowed me to observe group dynamics and facilitating strategies from a different point of view. It highlighted the importance to be flexible as a facilitator, as to be able to adjust to different situations and to follow the energy of the group as well as the group dynamics that are taking place... Overall, I really felt the importance to keep a positive attitude as a facilitator and in the overall group and I liked to learn in how many ways we can maintain such a positive attitude in the group."

"Thank you so much for all the wonderful resources and incredibly rich material you have provided, in addition to a fantastic workshop.  So glad I decided to attend; you made it all well worth our time!"

"I am very new to these concepts ... After completing this workshop, I became more aware and oriented (to facilitation)... I was exposed to new methods to facilitate a meeting."

"So great! Thanks for a great workshop that is both carefully crafted and very flexible. Learned a ton and had a great time."

"I really enjoyed this seminar - a fantastic atmosphere was created among the group members, and everybody felt visibly relaxed. It was a dense and intense day, but I can really say I profited a lot - in terms of personal development, and by learning things that I can apply in everyday situations."

"I really enjoyed that this was an active learning experience, that I learned by participating."

Image by Owen Egan.

Facilitator: Joan Butterworth is a dynamic leadership educator, consultant, instructor, mentor, and facilitator who has been specializing in leadership development, innovative approaches to creating positive learning environments and participatory decision-making. Her expertise is based on over ten years of designing, developing and leading numerous active-learning workshops; she has a proven track record as a program specialist, project manager and process leader. She has a passion for cultivating high performing teams and encouraging future leaders to explore ways to productively work across challenges such as hierarchy. As a leadership educator for the past ten years; she stewards programming directed to encourage student engagement leading to learning and empowerment.

Working in Campus Life & Engagement (Student Services) at McGill, Joan has been combining her expertise in education, training and theatrical improvisation with leadership development, emotional intelligence, community/team building and communication skills. She creates engaging interactive arts-based workshops as a means to inspire positive creative expression, cognitive flexibility as well as intellectual exchanges. These experiential workshops encourage participants to build on their own expertise and awareness in a collaborative environment offering a contrast to the lecture approach. Currently she continues to design and develop active learning workshops focused on facilitation skills for various levels of expertise and experience within academic and research environments.

Joan has degrees from McGill including a B.A. in English Literature, a Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language; she also has a Master’s degree in Educational Technology from Concordia. She has been active in Montreal theatre and improv (from underground theatre to Fringe Festivals to main stage productions and various zany improv performances) for many years. She is also an avid improvisation champion, performing and teaching for over 25 years (her not-so-secret agenda is that more people need to discover improv). She taught improvisation at Dawson’s Professional Theatre program in 2015 and gives improvisation workshops for actors and non-actors in the Montreal community. Her accessible approach to improvisation allows everyone to safely explore active learning through play, connecting to joy and creativity.


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