9.23pm on Sunday 22 September 2019

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Making learning and change easier for you and others


facilitation in practice

Helping you put the ideas from these resources into context.

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Click play to hear an audio overview of the resources in this section.

facilitation resources

Links to books, websites and articles about developing facilitation skills.


How to use the resources in this section to develop your skills as a facilitator

This facilitation skills section is organised around 10 core units each of which addresses a different aspect of the understanding and skills that make for effective facilitation skills.  These unit are designed to help you to feel confident and well equipped to plan and set up sessions in which people will feel fully involved and valued in sharing their experience or learning from each other.

These units are for you to use at your own time and pace.  If you are new to facilitation you may like to complete all the 10 units. They can however be used on a 'pick and mix'  basis if you only want to address specific skills or are looking for a refresher.  You can use these materials on your own, with others or as way to help groups to learn about facilitation

These materials are currently being developed.  In time each unit will have a variety of exercises and resources to help you to learn.  For the time being each unit has a 'mind map' that you can download to give you an overview of some of the key ideas in each section.  Please feel free to add any suggestions of your own.

Click on the session title to see the resources that are available.


FAC1 Adult Learning and Developing Understanding

What helps and enables adults to learn in ways that are open and empowering?  This is a vitally important topic for everyone involved in leading or shaping activities that encourage learning, growth and change.  Effective learning and building confidence to do things in different ways can lead to transformational change in the way we think about ourselves, others and respond to the world.  In this unit we explore what is distinctive about adult learning and how vital good facilitation skills are so critical to enabling a culture of effective learning and growth.

FAC2 Exploring Facilitation

A good deal of organised learning or group discussion tends to focus on those with expertise and can offer an input of new knowledge. Whilst this can be valuable, this unit explores what facilitation skills are and why it is so helpful to encourage way of helping to deepen our understanding and learn form each other. It explores the qualities and skills that facilitators demonstrate, the difference between instructional teaching and facilitative teaching and when it is most appropriate to use each style.

FAC3 Planning, designing and sequencing a session

What do you need to take into account when planning and designing a session that you are leading or facilitating?  How might you structure it and sequence the different elements to ensure effective engagement and participation as well as offer variety and interest.  How should start your session or programme, what is in the middle of it and what options do you have and how do you end the session so that it leads somewhere.  This session has useful check-lists of things to think about when getting into detailed organisation. You will also find the next unit which deals with designing powerful questions to be helpful in planing your session.

FAC4 Designing powerful questions

The key to effective facilitation is asking the kinds of open questions, relating to the topic under discussion, that help people to deepen their understanding and works out the answers for themselves.  These are called powerful questions and need to carefully designed and tested.  This unit explores the different kinds of questions that is is helpful to ask and how we should frame a powerful question.  It explores how best to use questions to surface issues and clarify assumptions.

FAC5 Getting a session started

The first part of running any session is often the most difficult to get off on the right footing.  This is an important time to create the environment that encourages openness and shared responsibility.  This is the time to clarify aims and agree shared expectations.  It is at this stage when groups form and begin to gel. How best do we help that to happen quickly?  It is important to ensure that people are comfortable and they understand how the overall process is supposed to work.  It can be helpful to set ground-rules for behaviour and clarifying mutual expectations of the group as well as individuals.

FAC6 Participation and Engagement

Effective facilitation leads to high levels of engagement and participation by group members. What do facilitators do to encourage everyone to contribute as fully as possible?  Good facilitators ask powerful questions and listen hard to the responses.  How the group's ideas are recorded and processed is vitally important if discussion is to lead somewhere and enable new connections to be made and fresh understanding to be discovered. How best does the facilitator ensure that everyone contributes and all voices are heard?  These issues will be explored in this unit and good practice shared.

FAC7 Steering the Process

Facilitators have to keep the process of the session in flow by keeping the shared goals and aims ahead of them whilst responding appropriately to the discussion as it arises in the moment.  How best to handle the balance of discussion and input and help the group to maintain its energy and sense of progress requires judgement. How provocative should the facilitator be in encouraging new thinking and how do they effectively deal with fresh ideas and issues that can't be properly addressed in this session. Managing time is important if the group are to feel the session was productive.

FAC8 Dealing with differences and conflicts

All facilitators are concerned about how to cope if discussions get out of hand, emotions get heated and there is open and aggressive conflict.  Tensions and differences can be a source of creativity and open up fresh thinking if discussion is handled well and people don't dig into their positions. Sometime some of the group may turn against or challenge the facilitator themselves.  In this unit we will explore how to tune into the emotional climate and understand how best to transform conflict into something more constructive.

FAC9 Drawing Discussions Together

An important part of the facilitator's role is to summarise and draw discussion together from time to time.  This helps to give a structure to the group's thinking.  Summarising can also help individuals and the group to take stock of what they have learned and how they are progressing towards their aims.  This can give a group a fresh burst of energy at the right moment and allow new issues to be addressed.  Groups need to make decisions at various critical points about what action they will take individually and collectively.  Effective facilitation will enable the group to come to wise decisions and to handle different levels of commitment to future plans. 

FAC10 Summarising Learning and Action Planning

This is one of the most important elements of the facilitators role for without this stage the groups efforts could go to waste and fresh learning may not be recognised or consolidated.  Invariably, insufficient time is left for this important stage.  Action planning is itself a creative process and takes time if everyone is to be involved and share in the plan.  Often deciding on a realistic set of small manageable steps allows the group to make progress and build on what they have done in the future.  This is also a good opportunity for the facilitator to work with the group and individuals to share feedback and learn how to improve thins for the future.

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