Tip #162: Group Facilitation Techniques #1

Over the past weeks, we have focused on the information that a facilitator needs to have in order to effectively deliver training. The answers to the eight questions involved in designing a facilitator guide will be different, depending upon the nature of the training and the specific needs of the facilitator.

However, I have found that it is almost always useful to include at the very beginning of any facilitator guide some general information about group facilitation techniques. This is prompted by the fact that most of the facilitator guides that I have developed have been for technical experts who were more familiar with lecture than with the participatory interaction built into the training.

Prior to getting into the group facilitation techniques themselves, I like to begin with an overview of the training philosophy.

Training Philosophy

The exercises have been structured to treat the participants with respect, set them up for successful learning, and to use the training time as effectively and efficiently as possible. To this end, care is taken not to insult the participants and waste time by teaching them what they already know.

In order to increase the probability that the participants will be motivated to learn the information, the technical information is given in small doses and buy-in is accomplished by building upon what they already know from their personal experiences.

The workshop atmosphere should be comfortable and informal. Physical activities, such as throwing a koosh ball or soft bean bag, are strongly encouraged. Ten minute breaks should also be taken every hour, to keep the participants fresh and energized.

Since there is a good possibility that the participants already have some or most of the information, the focus of the exercises is to draw the information from them, with additional enhancements made by the instructor as needed. This may include prompting them with questions that will help them discover the correct or complete answer. Or, it may involve having them review reference pages to try to discover the answers themselves.

Small group discussion, augmented by instructor lecture, is used where it is likely that some, but not all, of the participants may know some of the answers- but may also need clarification and/or validation by the instructor.

Lecture should only be used when it is likely that none of the participants will know the answers.

In the lesson plan that follows, the times are approximate- within each section. This does not mean that you will be able to run over into the time period allotted to the next section. You will get into your own flow on this. You may also have to make some decisions regarding unanticipated issues that come up. However, make sure that all participant activities are completed by the participants.

This Training Philosophy is intended to establish a new mind set for the facilitators. The interactive nature of the training will be reinforced by the other sections included in the Group Facilitation Techniques portion of the facilitator guide.

In the weeks that follow, we will add information regarding how to:

  • Create a Sense of Community
  • Maintain a Smooth Flow
  • Assign an Exercise
  • Model the Assignment
  • Check for Comprehension
  • Debrief Exercises
  • Respond to Participant Questions
  • Wait for Participant Responses
  • Dignify Incorrect Answers
  • Refocus a Discussion Monopolizer

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