Observing Games in Action


When using training games as part of a learning and development intervention, the facilitator adds value to the event by observing the activity and providing feedback to participants after the game. But what should the facilitator be observing?  In this short article Sarah Cook provides tips on observation skills.

When observing a group taking part in a learning activity, the skilled facilitator sits outside the group and notes what is happening in the group. My preference is to list the names of each of the people taking part in the activity and make notes on what you see the person say or do, or not say or do. This allows you to give evidence based feedback to each participant after the game is complete. You may wish to ask one or more of the delegates to also act as observers.

Hear are some of the signals that you can pick up on as you observe:

• What is being said : how people are managing the activity and the amount of air time that each person has

• Seating arrangements: how are people sitting (or standing)? Is there anyone excluded from the group or taking a prominent position in the group

• Body language cues? Are the words people are saying congruent with their body language?

• Tone of voice? Is a person's tone assertive, passive or aggressive?

The words, music (tone) and dance (body language) also give you an indication of energy levels, emotional and comfort levels with the task and the group as well as how engaged people are with the activity and the team.

If a team or group is to reach and maintain a high level of productivity, two kinds of needs have to be satisfied:
1. What it takes to do the task or job at hand
2. What it takes to strengthen and maintain the group

What people actually say and do can be looked at in two ways: The task or content and the behaviour itself - how it serves the groups' needs

When observing watch out for who undertakes 'Task' or 'Content' roles such as initiating discussions and problem solving. Look for behaviour which demonstrates generation of good group relationships such as encouraging others and recognising success. Also watch for behaviour which is not helpful to the team or to the task at hand such as aggressiveness or game playing.

As a facilitator of a game or activity try to:

• Improve your awareness of the behaviours in the group
• Be more sensitive to how these behaviours help and hinder the accomplishment of the activity and the group relationship

Sarah Cook is Managing Director of the leadership and service excellence organisation, the Stairway Consultancy.  She can be contacted on: 01628 526535.

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