A multi-level learning activity
One training collective in Europe that teaches group decision-making skills uses the skit to illustrate problem behaviors in a way that helps folks learn without getting defensive or upset. They ask a handful of volunteers to come to the center of the room and show the rest of the group what happened at “the worst meeting I ever attended.” The large group laughs uproariously –– and with recognition –– as the small group does its skit. Then a new set of volunteers is asked to show “how it should be done”, which models an alternative set of behaviors for the now-receptive group.
A variation on this is to divide all participants into a set of small groups, each of which is asked to create two skits, the first showing dysfunctional behaviors and the second showing alternatives. The small groups perform for each other, again with laughter that releases the tension that goes with defensive resistance to learning.
A large organisation held a retreat to seek direction in a hostile political climate. Many participants were fearful about the future. They were also somewhat fearful of each other, because the organisation had a lot of disagreement and division. The facilitators realized that the organisation couldn’t do its best thinking without talking about the fears, so they built skits into the first evening of the retreat. Small groups of participants were given the task of creating skits to present to the whole group which would illustrate something they were afraid of. As the skits were presented the room rocked with laughter. With the laughter came a release of emotion and the group could settle into the rest of its work.
Other uses of skits include group diagnosis (“Show us in your skit what dynamics or conflicts are present under the surface in this group,”), and breaking the group out of discouragement by coming up with creative tactics (“Show us in your skit the most creative protest action our movement could try.”).
FACILITATION HINTS: Assume the group will get into the skits even if they seem tired or have a formalistic style; your believing in them is the biggest factor. Don’t give them much time to prepare the skits.10 minutes is often enough. Allow the groups to volunteer to come forward rather than select them. Lead the applause for each and raise the energy level. Keep the debrief short in most cases; the nature of skits is to make the points broadly and very obviously. Have fun and enjoy the laughter: it supports learning.