Adjusting to Group Size

Adjusting to Group Size

Learning Outcomes: To learn how to make adjustments to activities and curricula based on different group sizes

Introduction: How group size impacts facilitation

One of the most important considerations for a facilitator is the size of the group they are facilitating. It is very important for a facilitator to consider group size when planning and facilitating their sessions for a few reasons:

  1. Time – larger groups will often take more time to complete activities or curricula and failing to account for this can leave facilitators with too much or too little time remaining in their sessions.
  2. Input – for some participants, sharing their opinion with a group of 40 is much more intimidating than a group of 8 and it is important to account for the group size to ensure that everyone feels included and engaged.
  3. Effectiveness – some activities are optimally effective for certain group sizes. Sometimes, attempting an activity with a group that is too large or too small hurts the effectiveness of the activity by making it too frustrating or not challenging enough for the group.

Making Adjustments

While facilitators must keep in mind the size of their group when they plan and facilitate sessions, group size should not be prohibitive of curricula or activities that a facilitator feels are effective for completing their goals. Facilitators instead make adjustments to their curricula and activities to account for group size based on how group size will impact their facilitation.

Adjusting for time appropriately requires some practice and experience, but generally all activities and curricula will require more time with larger groups and less time with smaller groups. With smaller groups, instead of using less time, it is usually recommended to go more in-depth with debriefs or curricula. With larger groups, it is generally appropriate to budget an extra ⅓ of the expected run time of the activity or curriculum to ensure the group has enough time to finish without being rushed.

There are many different ways to adjust an activity to include everyone in the group. For example, splitting up a large group into smaller groups (either randomly or by roles) can make the entire groups more manageable and encourage participation. For very large groups, it is also useful to utilize multiple facilitators and each of those facilitators working with one group. You can use these methods in combination with time for each of the groups to “share out” to the large group to ensure cohesion during the session.

As stated earlier, many activities have an optimal group size. However, these activities can still be used with larger or smaller groups with some adjustments. Larger groups can be split into smaller groups to complete the activity separately. If this approach is utilized, facilitators have the choice of debriefing in those small groups and “sharing out” to the large group or debriefing as a large group. Also, the rules or tools used in the activities can be modified for larger groups. For example, “Where’s My Chicken” is a very easy activity for a large group, but using a larger stand-in for the “chicken” such as a trash can (or multiple trash cans) makes the activity more challenging for a large group.

While this is article does not cover everything you can do to adjust to different group sizes, understanding how different group sizes affect your facilitation will improve your ability to adapt to different groups.