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Instructional Leadership

How to Grow (Quicker) as a Facilitator

Written by Paul Needham, TE Instructional Coach and Professional Learning Specialist

As you grow as an Instructional Leader on your campus or in any organization, you will most likely find yourself facilitating professional learning opportunities for your peers more often. While it is not a skill that comes naturally to many people, it is a skill that can be developed. Prioritizing this area for growth and being open to feedback will dramatically improve your skills, and so will following these three steps when planning and executing a session.

Consider your Audience When Planning a Session

Many facilitators of adult learners will take into account the needs of their audience when considering the content of the session itself, yet far fewer consider the needs of their audience when thinking about how the session will be facilitated. Is your audience largely visual learners or kinesthetic? Will the session be in the morning or at the end of a long day of teaching? Your session may be very strong, yet if you don’t consider what your participants may be coming to the table with, you run the risk of it missing the mark. For example, if your session is at the end of a long day of teaching, you would do well to plan activities that are more kinesthetic to keep your audience engaged and their blood flowing.

Rehearse Your Session and Ask for Targeted Feedback

Your session consists of two parts: the session as it exists on paper and the session as it is executed in front of your participants. Just like you spend time on the session you write, you also need to spend time on how you will present your session and what each part with sound like. Facilitating a session for the first time in front of your audience is the same as not thinking about what your session will even be about until your audience walks in the room. Practicing your session will give you the opportunity to anticipate misunderstandings and get feedback from peers. To make this practice as effective as possible, it helps to give your pseudo-audience something specific to look for such as transitions, goal-setting, pacing, or body-language.

Survey Administration and Analysis

At the conclusion of your session, and in the spirit of continuous improvement, you should give your participants a survey to fill out for you to analyze. The survey should consist of questions about the topic of the session as well as your facilitation. I would recommend including multiple choice and open-ended questions as well as certain questions that stay the same regardless of the session you facilitated. Some websites, such as Survey Monkey will let you give surveys for free. When you start facilitating for larger audiences or want to do more complex analysis, I would recommend Survey Methods, which is a pay site.

Doing this will allow you to track your own growth over time. Analyzing this survey afterwards can help you create new focus areas for your next professional development opportunity and increase the speed of your development as a facilitator.

In my own effort to continuously improve I’d love to hear what about this post was effective, how it could have been improved, and what I might have missed. Please post your thoughts in the comments below.



4 thoughts on “How to Grow (Quicker) as a Facilitator

  1. I am very inspired by these insights to advance this skill in my own practice. I plan to use these to help plan for and reflect on my next opportunity to facilitate a session. Thank you Paul. This is very helpful.

    Posted by Teaching Excellence | May 15, 2012, 4:59 pm
  2. Paul-you’re soo right about including movement during sessions. I love the PD’s that give me an opportunity to move my legs a bit. I might frown my face initially:-) lol but my mind and body are always grateful for the movement in the end.

    Posted by Teaching Excellence | May 22, 2012, 1:32 pm
  3. This is really helpful, Paul! I think rehearsing and asking people for targeted feedback will be great for me.

    I also received another piece of facilitation advice that was impactful–pay careful attention to the middle of your session because that’s where lots of participants can get bored or restless. Another way to look at it is that people have more energy during the beginning and end of an activity, so try and have as many beginnings and endings as possible (and so short middles) during one session. For example, if you have a practice activity that you think will take 30 minutes, maybe break it up and frame each part of the practice as a separate activity with a separate, shorter time limit so that it feels like more beginnings and endings and there’s no room to get bored. This sounds similar to keeping up the sense of urgency in a classroom…:)

    Posted by Petra Brock Claflin | May 22, 2012, 1:42 pm
    • This is great advice, Petra and is really well taken. You can even relate it to a television show. You’re much more likely to keep watching a one-hour show if there are plot twists and turns throughout the episode. By chunking a professional development session and having multiple opportunities for your audience to interact with each other and the content, you essentially create several shorter sessions about the same topic.

      Posted by Paul Needham | May 30, 2012, 9:21 am

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