Training of trainers – NFL and interactive methods in Youth work – ACHIEVE

Lesson 21 – Group Dynamics and Social learning: The Layers Effect – text

text lesson

(by Ognian Gadoularov)

One of the main characteristics of the training processes in youth work is that they happen in a group. Moreover the non-formal learning reinforces values such as tolerance, mutual aid, support, team work, etc. The social processes and interaction influence greatly the learning on individual or group level. For this reason during preparation and conduction of training it is necessary to take into account two elements – the group dynamics and the socio-cognitive learning (see Social learning theory and self-efficacy)

The group dynamics processes are phases through which a group passes from the moment of its gathering until the moment when it reaches a level at which the focus and its attitudes are targeted towards a common goal. In trainings the shared goal for a group of students is the joint effective learning and competence development. Besides the group dynamics processes the achievement of the educational result is highly influences by social learning factors (environment, individual specifics and individual behavior).

In this relation the trainer has to know well the group dynamics processes of transition from one phase to other in order to direct them successfully paying special attention to the factors of the learning environment and the condition of the students.

The youth work training are often carried in a short time period (usually 1 to 7 days). For this reason one of the first tasks of the trainer is to stimulate the fastest possible transition of the group through the group dynamics phases in order to reach the level of effective work (see next chapter). This is usually done by using certain activities (games) at the beginning of the training – games for introduction and sharing, ice-breakers, team challenges, trust building games, activities for securing reflection (see Theory of experiential learning) – debriefing, reflection, discussion.

Very often during training which are limited in their duration there is not enough time to fit thematic sessions in the program or find time for activities directed specifically towards the stimulation of the group dynamics. In such cases the so called The Layers Effect (Two layered program planing) – parallelism (bi-planning) of the training program is applied. This is an approach used to design training programs in which at every moment of conducting an educational activity the work is directed simultaneously towards the achievement of educational goals (cognitive, affective or psycho-motor) and towards the development of the group dynamics.

This is achieved in the process of design and preparation of thematic educational session when certain activities are selected an adapted in such way that they are used also for the development of the group processes – sharing, getting closer, and team work.

Example – in a session related to Sustainable development start with the game Bingo asking questions about Globalization – in this way you combine the introduction of concepts with the introduction of the participants).


On other hand games for development of the group dynamics can be adapted in such way that they can be also used for demonstration or learning related to the topic.

Example – the energizer at the beginning of the session can be adapted so that it carries information or message related to the topic of the session.


The training program “Training of Trainers” is an educational product that is currently missing in the partner countries – Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania. Due to the early stage of development of the youth sector and youth work in these countries the educational materials aimed at non-formal learning are still limited and insufficient. The lack of adequate educational framework for training of youth workers in the field of formal education leads to inefficient use of the capacity of professionals.

This course fills a gap in the youth sector, namely the need of methodologies for the preparation of trainers, who are able to train youth workers. This course will set the basis for the preparation of teams of trainers of youth workers. The course will serve the goal of development of youth work in the participating countries and other interested parties. A large number of youth workers can be trained according to the methodology at national and international level to use and promote non-formal learning as a tool to enhance the realization of young people in the labor market and increase their social cohesion.

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