Facilitators & Facilitation

The features of facilitation:

 Facilitators are educators in adult, community, youth work and informal education.

A facilitator remains neutral and does not take sides or discriminates.  These educators are not teachers and have to listen to their pupils and determine how their reasons for or against an argument differ to engage in a productive conversation (Schwarz 2002: 41).  Facilitators are not the decision-makers, nor mediators.  They must not overrule group decisions as they will lose credibility and their assignments will not be effective.

Facilitators must encourage reflection around experiences and process, the task or to other aspects of the group.  Their role is to empower learners to learn in an experimental way.

Learning is achieved through reflection upon everyday experience or direct encounter ‘with the phenomena being studied’ rather than merely thinking about the encounter, or only considering the possibility of doing something about it.’ (Borzak 1981:  9 quoted in Brookfield 1983).

The main responsibility for learning is with the learner.  Facilitators’ emphasis is self-direction.  This is different to traditional education in that teachers are responsible for students learning.  As discussed by John Heron, facilitation is a holistic intervention.

In summary, facilitation helps people to explore, learn and change which builds a range of skills.  There are three core conditions for facilitative practice.  These are as follows:

Þ    The facilitator must be seen as a real person for learning to be effective.

Þ    Prize the learner, encourage feelings, build and maintain trust

Þ    Compassion plays a big part in learning – the teacher must understand the students emotionally and know how the learning is affecting the student.  Students want to be understood – not evaluated, not judged, simply understood from their own point of view, not the teacher’s. (Rogers 1967 304-311).

Certain incidences need formal meetings to search for answers or make decisions. They are more group sessions and needs planning. These meetings must be flexible to address the needs of students.

So, what do facilitators have to think about?  The answer is a simple EFFECT

Environment

What will the setting be?  What resources do we need for students to learn and understand what is being taught?

Focus.

Þ    Purpose of discussion

Þ    Subject and action- what needs have been identified?

Feelings

Þ    What sense do people have of what they want and need?

Þ    What emotions will be evokes?

Experiences

Þ    There should be a mixture of experiences and or activities to support and inspire study

Þ    Focus on important points and at the same time meet the needs of students

Þ    Assist with starting group work, exploration and expression.

Changes

Þ    In what ways should the students change?

Þ    Do students want to change and how?  Is there a change – if at all – by participating in the sessions?

Timings

Þ    Allocate the correct amount of time for different learning situations and experiences.

Facilitators that adhere to these main points; the environment, focus, feelings, experiences, changes and timing will gain respect and credibility from their students.

Reference:

Smith, Mark K. (2001; 2009) ‘Facilitating learning and change in groups’, the encyclopedia of informal education, viewed 22 August 2012, www.infed.org/biblio/b-facil.htm

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