A teacher who is striving to be a facilitator should focus on three basic roles: Architect, Pilot, and Guide. In the Architect role, the teacher plans the learning experience and ensures that it fits the learning objectives. In the Pilot role, the teacher guides students toward the learning objectives and navigates around obstacles that occur, while in the Guide role, the teacher creates the positive, focused learning environment that facilitates learning. I have provided here some of the specific tasks for each role.
- Gather information about the learners, clarify the purpose of the facilitated sessions, and create desired outcomes and an agenda.
- Create a design to meet the learner’s needs.
- Create a list of needed supplies in anticipation of various learning activities. Will the activity require printed materials, flip chart paper, or markers? Laptops or smartphones?
- Consider the design of the learning space such as room set up, preparation and cleanup requirements, and other site-specific considerations. The traditional classroom layout of chairs in rows facing the front is not conducive to collaboration and discussion. A better idea is to have several tables with chairs around each table so participants can discuss content together. Whiteboards are great for brainstorming.
- Rearrange the classroom if needed to best fit the learning activities.
- Make sure that everyone has the required supplies to get started. Tell students ahead of time if they need to bring laptops, smart phones, tablets, or other supplies.
- Make sure everyone understands both the destination goal and the journey of how to get there.
- Provide plentiful opportunities for content application, discussion, and questioning to ensure everyone is understanding the content.
- Be alert to the group’s mood and ability to focus and get work done.
- Be ready to respond to unexpected ‘turbulence’ or other threats to the group’s well-being and make corrections as necessary. Observe how the participants are dealing with each other and the work being done by the groups, and make adjustments as needed.
- At the end of the learning session, recap the journey, clarify final questions, and wrap up the session with a quick overview.
- Lead students through what is often unexplored territory and provide a safe learning environment.
- Provide a calm, steady presence as groups work through frustration, disagreement, or even just general problem solving.
- Be alert and resourceful. Managing student groups is complex and can get messy.
- Remain confident and composed as you lead the group through learning processes, challenges, and good decision-making.
- Intentionally build rapport with each participant in the classroom.
- Use great classroom management and conflict management and resolutions strategies.
- Use signals for quiet and effective transition sequence skills.
- Ask questions that foster critical thinking and provide structures that foster dialogue and deep learning.
Facilitating learning is a completely different skill set from giving a great presentation or lecture, but it is a skill set that can be learned. The best advice for becoming a great facilitator is to practice, practice, practice! Remember, it’s not about what you know; it’s about what they learn.
Sharon is a Registered Nurse by trade, with 16 years experience as Surgical Nurse and Nurse Educator at The Scarborough Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. She also has 11 years experience as a Professor of Nursing and Professional Development Specialist for faculty at Humber Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning in Toronto, Ontario.
Sharon is a PhD student at Andrews University, USA.
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