Method workshop: Prompting participants into action as a guiding principle

How do I make people aware and motivated about energy and climate-conscious behaviour? Around 40 participants addressed this question through using various methods and new interactive approaches on 6 February 2018 in Wuppertal.


The Energiewende ("Energy Transition") is a social learning process comprised of the formal and informal learning and education processes of the public. The Nationale Top Runner Initiative (NTRI) together with the EnergyAgency.NRW invited participants to the "Energiewende im Kopf," (“Energiewende in mind“) method workshop. With around 40 participants, the event dealt with a question that has immense consequences in the context of the Energiewende: which seminar and workshop methods effectively encourage participants to question their own thoughts and actions and - in the best case - to make changes?

Pestalozzi 4.0 - or: The Learning Concept in Neurobiology

According to neurophysiologic education research, the human brain connects those nerve cells that are simultaneously activated by stimuli together: a person connects facial expressions, postures, movements, thoughts, memories, feelings, etc. into neural networks.

"This insight can be read as a neurobiological translation of Pestalozzi's „learning with brain, heart and hand“; it serves us as a valuable methodological-didactic point of reference when drawing up seminars and workshops," explains Tom Küster, a teacher, of the EnergyAgency.NRW. Therefore, if you want to prompt people to question their thinking and acting, it is not enough to present content solely as slides: "Self-reflection, educational processes, and behavioural change are facilitated by the consistent participation and action of participants - be it in a mental, emotional, or physical manner.“

Participants between action and "aha!" experiences

adelphi Senior Project Manager Gunnar Will of the National Top Runner Initiative moderated the Method Workshop and drew positive conclusions from the event: "It is impressive to experience yourself, for example, how internal images help one to learn over a short period of time. It was precisely this type of "aha"-experience that we wanted to facilitate for the participants, and I think we succeeded with the method workshop." Following the "learning by doing" principle, Tom Küster demonstrated the use of about a dozen stimulating but largely unknown seminar methods. For one method, the participants had to try to plant ten trees in five rows, each with four trees (this actually works) - to experience how old patterns of thinking can limit oneself. Another method made those present physically experience both how pleasant a habit and how uncomfortable the unfamiliar can be. Another sequence in turn made it possible to experience what has been found in brain research, that it is not the mind but emotions that are the basis of human motivations. And yet another method showed participants the huge advantage of images and visuals in comparison to words - and why the principle "image suggests text" is especially applicable to learning and education processes.

Emancipation from PowerPoint

"All the methods had one thing in common: the participants were able to experience individual aspects relevant to "Energiewende im Kopf" through methods that were adapted specifically for it," explains Gunnar Will. "For such consistent and active participation, however, the speaker must be able to emancipate himself from PowerPoint." Slides tend to be a speaker-centred medium that is more suitable for quick presentations, but hardly as a means of prompting a participant into action.