10.50am on Sunday 31 May 2020

Practitioner's Views

Views form the Practitioners

During a recent survey of experienced adult learning practitioners by After Sunday, people were asked to share their experiences and key insights about facilitation.

There responses have grouped around the 10 units of the Developing Facilitation Skills programme.

If you want to add you views them please feedback using this survey and add to this list.

1          Adult Learning and Developing Understanding

  • How much group members learn/gain from those other than the facilitator.
  • Don't take myself too seriously. Respect the experience of group members/participants.
  • That the solutions to problems are nearly always in the minds and hearts of the group not the facilitator 
  • The belief (alive and well in the places I work) that groups should have a leader who can teach - i.e. impart knowledge and the struggle to encourage Christian disciples to think for themselves and take responsibility for their own learning.
  • Light bulb moments when a person suddenly has an insight or when someone in the group 'gets there first so that I haven't needed to 'tell' them. 
  • Space to think and speak and listen.
  • The icing on the cake is when I see participants discover they can do far more than the first thought

2          Defining Facilitation

  • To stay out of putting my opinion into the task - to focus on the role I have, without being draw into the content of the discussion / task. I also find it difficult to help others with a strong out front management style to understand that facilitating is a powerful way of running a group - that it's not opting out, or a soft approach - its effective and robust. It's just not controlling.
  • Facilitators need finely tuned process awareness skills.
  • If I have learned from the group members - that shows my openness and the group's engagement.
  • Success is that people think they have done it themselves
  • You can see the light bulbs going on for people
  • The ability to set aside his/her personal agenda in order truly to listen to contributions
  • Having  trust in the capacity of the group
  • Ability to lead group meditation
  • Remaining neutral.
  • Giving the group a few pointers to help them do their own work (rather than tell them)
  • The ability to almost be invisible. Staying on the edge of the group
    Not inputting any of their views.

3          Planning, designing and sequencing a session

  • Need to accurately assess the purpose of the facilitation process.  You can do more damage than good.
  • Planning in advance essential.  Build worship and prayer into any meeting/event and especially if it is expected to be a difficult one. 
  • Never expect things to run smoothly.  Practice essential
  • In terms of working with groups that do need to acquire new knowledge, getting an appropriate balance between leading, teaching and facilitating

4          Designing powerful questions

  • Naming the key question in the moment.
  • Framing the leading questions.
  • Finding the absolutely right question that makes a difference
  • Strong provocative open ended questions

5          Getting started

  • Respect all participants.
  • Create a safe context and connections between group members.
  • An ability to create a safe and welcoming space in which to undertake whatever task/process we are involved in.
  • Create a sense of safe space.
  • Humour

6          Participation and Engagement

  • Listen well. Intercede if someone starts to 'take over' a group.
  • Trust the group. There is wisdom there.
    Look for the energy and work with it.
  • To trust the people that I am facilitating, believe they can do whatever they need to, and get out of the way
  • Drawing out the quieter members of a group
  • Shifting the focus from the dominant personalities to the silent ones
  • An ability to observe who is a high talker and who a low one and make sure that is handled appropriately.
  • Sure footed and light touch leading/guiding/encouraging people to contribute or listen when they would naturally do the opposite
  • An increased sense of direction and purpose within the group and for the group to be able to do more on their own
  • When people feel safe enough to share something sensitive.
  • Ensure everyone involved by keeping track of who is contributing more than average and pulling others in.  Group maintain eye contact with me.  Little (almost never none) use of iPhones /Blackberries. 
  • Enthusiasm of the whole group, engagement of the whole group, creating an atmosphere where all felt able to contribute and they felt their opinions were valued 
  • Quality of contribution and receptiveness of group
  • The affirmation of all learners
  • Control of those with a lot to say
  • Shutting up people who ramble on or talk too much, involving as many people as possible in discussion, humour, focus.
  • Ability to hold a group in their hands and to draw out those who don't want to contribute
  • Clarity, ability to maximise engagement, reading signals (verbal + non verbal)
  • Genuine co-operation, different people contributing differently, without people trying to score points off each other

7          Steering the process

  • Wait, watch, listen, pray, reflect back what's going on.
  • Need to be flexible
  • To set aside what I think people need to learn in favour of what they are actually learning or doing on that occasion.
  • Connect the personal and the abstract.
  • Not to say too much or plan too much
  • To remain flexible and sit loosely to any "agenda".  Groups tend to work their own way around a topic which if the Spirit is involved may not be my way.  We usually cover everything that I hope to have covered before the end of the session.
  • Patience!  Need to be continually alert.  Watchfulness. 
  • Don't fall in love with your plans - be flexible and respond to the group.
  • Be observant, listen and read signals. Strike the right balance. Silence can be golden!
  • Sometimes doing nothing is a good option
  • Commitment to the process
  • One-off situations where one can detect the can of worms but knows that there is not the time-scale to be able to open and close it safely.
  • Being flexible when the needs of a group mean deviating from 'my' plans! 
  • Holding my nerve and waiting for the group to find their way.
  • Continuing to stay engaged when it is long and tiring
  • Being tired and therefore impatient
  • A sense that the facilitator is not hell bent on getting through the agenda or task at all costs.
  • The ability to listen well and hold information to bring back into the discussion
  • Time keeping
  • Are people listening/responding/discussing?  Is there any laughter? (a good thing)  Are there good questions?
  • The ability to keep on track with the task while affirming and encouraging all in the group - so everyone feels good about themselves, the group and the completion of the task.
  • Their ability to not be distracted and stay focussed

8          Conflicts and Differences

  • Welcome conflict. It will come.
  • The person who is dogmatic or a fundamentalist.
  • Handling the dominant contributor without either appeasing or putting down.
  • Dealing with a power issues.
  • Someone in the group who is determined to be awkward, who talks continually in asides and is generally disruptive.
  • Facing into tough issues.

9          Drawing discussions together

  • Ability to listen and to accurately sum up the feelings and thoughts of a group in a way that develops consensus amongst the group
  • The ability to summarise at regular intervals as accurately as possible
  • Ability to offer a clear process proposal.

10        Summarising Learning and Action Planning

  • When there is a buzz in the room at the end of a session or when people come back to the facilitator later with something that was sparked by a session.
  • When people leave still buzzing.
  • I ask them afterwards how it was for them
  • Judge by whether we have met what the group wanted at the start of the process
  • Post facilitating feedback
  • Meeting goals achieved.
  • I also look for feedback from the group and for achieving the agreed objectives.

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