How can you deliver an experiential student induction with no props?

How can you deliver an experiential student induction with no props?

Yesterday I had the pleasure of experiencing Ryan Offutt ( do just that with a group of Masters Students at Leeds University Business School.
A good student induction should equip students with the ‘house keeping’ knowledge that they need to succeed in their studies and, I believe more importantly kick start the trusting relationships with their peers and faculty members that will enable them to form an effective working group.
Specifically, an effective induction could help students:

  • Become comfortable contributing to the group
  • Find common ground to create a sense of belonging
  • Make personal disclosures that breakdown barriers and provide a talking point to develop relationships
  • Build trust within the group and help everyone become comfortable with putting themselves ‘out there’
  • Feel ok with ‘failing’ as part of the learning process (so that they pass their exams!)
  • Reflect on the skills and attitudes that enable effective teams to work together

Ryan had a series of activities to help:

The story of my name

This is simple but powerful exercise. Students form up into groups of 3-4, and each member in turn has to tell the story of their name. For example: I’m Jamie, I’m called Jamie after my Great Grandad who was a tunneller in WWI. Listeners are encouraged to ask questions and explore the stories.

  • Helps students develop an identity
  • Aide-memoire for names
  • Gives an opportunity for controlled personal disclosure
  • Breakdowns barriers and provides an opportunity for others to ask questions

I’m awesome and you are too because we…

Set the room up in a big circle with all the participants sitting down. The facilitator stands in the middle and says “I’m awesome because” and makes a personal disclosure. For example “I’m awesome and you are too because we love to watch Netflix”. Everyone who this applies to stands up and tries to find a new chair, including the facilitator. Someone will be left in the middle. It’s their turn to continue.

  • Encourages safe, personal disclosure
  • Helps students identify others with a common interest
  • Increases comfort levels speaking in front of the group
  • Energises


 Groups of 3-4 are provided with a flip chart paper and pen. They’re asked to draw two dots on the page. The groups task is draw a portrait and then title the portrait one letter at a time. Team members may not communicate with each and they take it in turns to add to the portrait one line at a time.
The activity could be reviewed by getting participants to reflect on the attitudes that help and hinder progress.

  • An opportunity to reflect on the skills and attitudes that enable effective collaboration, for example:
    • Creating a shared vision
    • Building on others ideas
    • Observing others needs
    • Taking responsibility)

student induction
Ryan also energised the group and created more shared experiences through cognitive loading (an adult version of Simon Says) and getting participants to create secret handshakes (although I’d be hesitant about doing this in mixed sex, multi-cultural groups).
Like so many experiential activities the magic of course comes from the facilitator!
And one final tip I got from Ryan. If like me you spend lots of  getting participants to engage, you might have trouble getting them to disengage with each other, i.e be quiet!
What’s the solution? Don’t yell, use the power of the crowd to spread your message. Say “If you can hear me clap one”, Say “if you can hear me clap twice”. And watch a beautiful silence ripple through the group.