Facilitation Skills

Basic facilitation looks at your arrangements for deliveries.  Langevin Learning Services refer to that old expression “without customers there is no business” and suggests that for facilitator’s, learners being the customer, and without them we wouldn’t be in this business / career / industry.  To help build rapport with learners, they suggest:

Before the Course

  • Publicise an easy-to-use registration system.
  • Phone, email, or meet learners individually.
  • Send out a pre-course survey to find out what issues learners wish to address.
  • Send a welcome letter to each participant.
  • Send a letter to each participant’s supervisor.

During the Course

  • Create a safe and welcoming environment to reduce or eliminate the doubts, concerns, and fears learners might have at the start of the course.
  • Invite learners to express their expectations for the course and the course leader.
  • Give learners opportunities to express themselves, share their experience, and work in teams.
  • Build in fun, breaks, activities, and games, as appropriate.
  • Display enthusiasm for the course yourself (if you expect learners to be enthusiastic).

After the Course

  • Phone, email, or meet learners to follow up.
  • Send out an evaluation form to ask for learners’ opinions and suggestions.
  • Send a thank you letter to each participant.
  • Send a thank you letter to each participant’s supervisor and ask about the effectiveness of the training on a post-course survey.
  • Send a certificate (for each participant) to be presented by the supervisor.

But for L&D professionals, facilitation goes beyond the arrangements, it’s about the learners experience.   Cultivating healthy relationships leads to less problems. People will respect your advice and experience. 

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

According to managementhelp.org in recent decades, researchers, educators, authors and leaders have accepted that people in groups can learn a great deal from each other. The learning does not always have to be from an expert who somehow conveys expert knowledge onto others.

The benefits of group learning have spawned a wide variety of approaches, formats and styles that have, in turn, spawned related phrases like “collaborative learning”, “cooperative learning”, “peer learning” and “social learning”. As typically happens when a movement emerges, there are many different values, perspectives and opinions, even about which phrases to use, where and when.

The groups might be closely organised formal teams in which members share a common purpose, goals, structure, leadership, and methods of making decisions and solving problems. Or, groups might be spontaneous and informal gatherings, such as a gathering at a meeting to discuss a common topic.

The methods of learning can range from informal to formal.  Informal learning might be casual advice shared among members or noticing sudden “aha”s that a member gets during the group’s activities. Formal learning is typically designed and structured to achieve certain outcomes among all members. For example, all of them might attend a course on time management, share their insights from the course, and then carefully document their learnings in a journal.

Some examples of different types of groups are:

  • Action Learning – members work together in a group on real-world priorities primarily by sharing questions and taking actions between meetings. Members learn from the reflection during and between meetings, especially regarding the actions they took to address the real-world priorities.
  • Committees – a group of people appointed for a specific function, typically consisting of members of a larger group.
  • Communities of Practice – voluntary groups where members share a common priority (a problem, topic, etc.) and enhance their learning by interacting on an ongoing basis. Groups usually are informal and not part of an overall organisation.
  • Dialoguing – take part in a conversation or discussion to resolve a problem.
  • Focus Groups – are a powerful means to evaluate services or test new ideas. Basically, focus groups are interviews, but of 6-10 people at the same time in the same group. One can get a great deal of information during a focus group session.
  • Group Coaching the connection, communication, and community that comes from not just you interacting with your clients but group members interacting with each other.
  • Self-Directed and Self-Managed Work Teams
    • Self-Managed Team – a group of people working together in their own ways toward a common goal which is defined outside the team.
    • Self-Directed Team – a group of people working together in their own ways toward a common goal which the team defines.
  • Virtual Teams also known as a Geographically Dispersed Team (GDT) – is a group of individuals who work across time, space, and organisational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technology. They have complementary skills and are committed to a common purpose, have interdependent performance goals, and share an approach to work for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.

Language patterns and the use of – a language pattern refers to the way in which the core parts of a sentence are put together.  The most basic pattern includes a subject noun (a word used to identify any of a class of people, places, or things) and a verb (a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence, and forming the main part of the predicate of a sentence, such as hear, become, happen).

According to hypnoticworld.com language patterns, and the way we utilise our powers of speech are most important to us. The meaning of words may be may be altered slightly, moulded to give maximum affect, or made to seem of no importance, when actually the whole point of your sentence revolves around that one particular remark.  They suggest that “it’s not always what you say, it’s the way that you say it”.

The Milton Model comes from observations of Milton Erickson MD by Richard Bandler and John Grinder who founded the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis.  Erickson is widely considered to be one of the greatest Hypnotherapists that had ever lived and the co-Founders of NLP, Richard Bander and John Grinder, decided to model him and figure out exactly what made him so good.

During the time that they spent learning from Milton, they started noticing a pattern in the way that he talked with his clients.  It wasn’t before long that they were able to formalise it, and this became known as the Milton Model.  In a nutshell, the Milton Model allows you to be “artfully vague” so that your subject can create a meaning that is appropriate for them.

There are various models used to help facilitators to engage leaner and create an environment of thinking. One such model is Edward de Bono’s Six Hats and is helpful in establishing the viewpoint and characteristics relevant to each mode.  It is a good decision-making technique and method for enhancing team communication. It fosters collaboration, creativity, and innovation with the parallel thinking process of the six metaphorical hats.

You ‘put on’ or ‘take off’ one of these hats to indicate the type of thinking being used. A ‘thinking hat’ is a metaphor for a certain way of thinking. By mentally wearing different thinking hats people are forced to look at a problem from different perspectives. Thus a one-sided way of thinking is excluded and new insights are created. The Six Thinking Hats has been specifically designed so that everyone thinks in parallel using only one hat at a time. The process works best with a time limit (5 minutes maximum) for each hat. This encourages the group to ‘try on other hats’ and specifically helps people who may have very entrenched views to consider the idea from different perspectives.

  • White Hat – Facts and Information – This covers facts, figures, information needs, and gaps. It looks at what is known and what information could be missing. The association is with paper, on which ‘facts’ are recorded.
  • Red Hat – Feeling and Intuition – This covers intuition, feelings, and emotions. It focuses on what people feel about the issue under discussion. Importantly, there’s no need to rationalize or explain.
  • Black Hat – Caution and Problems – This is the hat of judgment and caution. It is the most valuable hat. The focus here is on problems, risks, and challenges that this idea might pose.
  • Yellow Hat – Benefits and Advantages – This is the logical positive— why something will work and why it will offer benefits. It can be used in looking forward to the results of some proposed action, but can also be used to find something of value in what has already happened.
  • Blue Hat – Managing Thinking – This is the overview or process control hat. Could you summaries the findings so far? What needs to happen next?
  • Green Hat – Creativity and Solution – This is the hat of creativity, alternatives, proposals, what is interesting, provocations and changes. This hat is often used in a brainstorm to generate ideas.

Depending on the goal and issue you can mix and match different hats in this sequence for serving different purposes as suggested by the Wikipedia:

  • Initial Ideas – Blue, White, Green, Blue
  • Choosing Between Alternatives – Blue, White, (Green), Yellow, Black, Red, Blue
  • Identifying Solutions – Blue, White, Black, Green, Blue
  • Quick Feedback – Blue, Black, Green, Blue
  • Strategic Planning – Blue, Yellow, Black, White, Blue, Green, Blue
  • Process Improvement – Blue, White, Yellow, Black, Green, Red, Blue
  • Solving Problems – Blue, White, Green, Red, Yellow, Black, Green, Blue
  • Performance Review – Blue, Red, White, Yellow, Black, Green, Blue

Another common model is known as Blooms Taxonomy – six cognitive levels of learning.

  • Remember – means that the students can recover, remember and know applicable knowledge from their memory. Also, it helps to recover information from long-term memory. Suitable learning verbs for this level are: choose, define, find, how, tag, list, match, quote, sketch, tell, select, show, what, when, where, which, etc.  Their examples are: List prime and composite number, to recall dates of important events, and remember the formula, etc.
  • Understand – reveal understanding through one or more outlines of explanation. Also, it helps in organise, compare, translate, interpret and give a description. Suitable learning verbs for this level are: classify, relate, explain, outline, summarize, translate, infer, illustrate, contrast, rephrase, etc. The example can be: classify a disease, compare two related processes, summarise features of a product, etc.
  • Apply – means that students use their knowledge in new conditions to gain results. In addition, it also performs a method by a given method. The suitable verbs for apply are: apply, build, develop, select, utilise, solve, make use of, model, plan, interview, experiment with, etc. Their examples are: make different between squares and triangles, using trigonometry formula to solve the problem, do pH test of different soap bars, etc.
  • Analyse – means to break materials into its regular elements. Furthermore, it establishes how parts relate to other parts. It also performs the process in a given situation. Suitable verbs for analysing are: assume, discover, divide, inspect, motive, relationship, examine, function, compare, divide, categorise, etc.  Examples are: To analyse the connection between flora and fauna, select the fullest list of actions, find the difference between cultures, etc.
  • Evaluate – means to judge on the basis of principles and norms. It also validates a course of action taken by students or teachers. Furthermore, it identifies the success of the process. Its suitable verbs are: agree, assess, criteria, decide, deduct, defend, choose, award, mark, measure, prove, rate, opinion, perceive, etc.
  • Evaluate examples are: decide whether scientist’s end result matches with experimental data, Judge the efficiency of a technique or method, verify the progress of someone, etc.

Create – It means to put elements together to form a new logical or practical entity. Also, it rearranges elements to form a new model or structure. Creates’ suitable verbs are: adapt, combine, delete, happen, imagine, originate, predict, propose, design, discuss, develop, build, etc.  Example of creating are: on the basis of criteria develop a hypothesis, make a new course outline for students, develop

By using these different methods of learning in group debates, brainstorming and discussions, learners will look at problems from different perspectives and be able to develop a suitable solution to the issue or bed the learning more thoroughly than rote learning.  Facilitators can use these models to encourage constructive but controlled discussions to support the teaching.

Remember – your success is the success of the learner and as a facilitator we need to ensure that not only the sessions is engaging but memorable and they key take away make a difference to the learners career.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

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