Facilitation is an art which adds value to the traditional teaching and lecturing process, like adding sugar to milk. Effective facilitation can bring a very positive vibe to the learning ecosystem, which can enhance cooperation and collaboration, and thus bringing synergy to the entire teaching-learning process. Facilitation brings a deeper meaning in this 21st Century classroom framework which is driven by emotions, technology, peer learning and the internet of things. But how can you master this much-needed skill to harness the maximum potential of teaching?
Developed through nine years of my teaching/facilitation career and a further six months working as a MasterCoach Training Coordinator at Quest Alliance, here are some tricks of the trade:
1) Balancing subject & social content:
Great facilitators around the world have a strong balance between their subject and social content – between the information which needs to be delivered, and the relevance of that information to their learners. Social content takes learning a step further, and is about how the topic connects with the learner’s own social context. For example linking the topic of the subject with trending social content (like a viral Facebook post, trending twitter handle, movie scene or popular comedy dialogue) which can create a deep impact in the learning process.
2) Plan at the micro level
My mentor once told me that the secret of great facilitation is micro-level planning of the sessions. Planning gives us the confidence to face any eventuality, and still deliver an extraordinary session. The planning should not be limited to content – it should range from an inventory of the equipment, to creating a learning environment, and thinking about the questions that we might need to ask. The design should be specific to the class being facilitated, and micro-planning can go down to each minute of the session. Planning gives insights as to what questions are expected from participants and potential logistical bottlenecks. Always have ‘plan B’ ready!
3) Bring in an emotional connect
The most important facilitation skill is understanding the social, economical, political and intellectual context of the each individual learner. Humanity is a key element that should be infused into facilitation, because understanding the individual student will almost always throw light onto most problems that they may face. An emotional connect with our students can always make a ‘good’ facilitator great.
4) Embrace vulnerability
Learners are now more tech savvy than many facilitators, which can make facilitators feel insecure. A great facilitator will always accept this vulnerability and be open to learning from their learners. Accepting things we don’t know and learning from them will set an example for students to follow.
5) Capture informal feedback
Having casual ‘offline’ conversations with your learners gives insights which can be used to deign sessions in interesting and engaging ways. These casual conversations (over lunch, tea or even at the bus stand) will provide you with honest feedback.
6) Bring in the element of surprise
A good facilitator will always take their learners by surprise. It’s a human tendency to enjoy positive surprises. Facilitators can be creative in this process, and the only limiting factor is that the surprise involved should not create any negative anxiety. Insanity can be defined as doing the same thing again and again but expecting different results – most of us at one time or another can say, ‘that’s me!’.
7) Energisers are helpful
Energisers are physical activities which can be used for various purposes, including focusing attention, encouraging teamwork and breaking monotony. All facilitators should have a good library/repository of energisers, as repeating the same activities can become very predictable. Overuse can also remove focus from the topic in question.
8) Time management & neutrality
Like a clock ticking constantly in the background, all facilitators should have a timer to help moderate the discussions in their sessions. Upholding the neutrality of opinions can bring more meaning and participation to classes.
9) Utilise blended learning
Blended learning is one of the easiest way to engage with your learner on a continuous basis. Modern students are very eager to communicate with a teacher who is a technical gecko. If you design your sessions with interactive content, there is a stronger feeling of ownership and continued contact with the learners outside of class hours. A facilitator should think of the ways to utilise the basic technologies used by their students such as mobile phones, laptops, Facebook, and WhatsApp in their sessions. A very good facilitator will always think of educating learners in their natural mindsets. Asking a learner to switch off their mobile phone may not work, but designing the session in such a way that they need to use their cell phones for learning might work.
10) Be a continuous learner
Allocate time on a weekly basis to read about the latest facilitation techniques and research from around the world. For me, this has included recently coming across and engaging with The SAMR model , Bloom’s Taxonomy, SOLE, and the TPACK Framework.
Coming together as a community of facilitators is something that can help us all. We’d love to hear your stories, tips and experiences from your classrooms. Start a discussion here!