Small Group Facilitation Reflection
Teaching, coaching, facilitation – while these three roles include similar tasks, they have slightly different purposes and goals. Because of the overlap in these positions and their strategies, I feel I am still not completely clear on how they differ, even after studying them in further detail. One of the questions that came up during a group discussion was the difference between these three areas and whether or not a Venn diagram exists to illustrate this concept. After a brief search didn’t turn up anything, I decided to create this one myself.
What do you think? Have I summarized the similarities and differences clearly? Anything I’m missing?
I recently wrote a couple posts about the coaching core competencies which you can find here and here. The International Association of Facilitators (IAF) also provides core competencies that outline “the basic set of skills, knowledge, and behaviours that facilitators must have in order to be successful facilitating in a wide variety of environments” (IAF, 2015). That document is available here.
Because I have been a teacher for over fifteen years, I think I naturally slip into a teaching role even when I’m not serving in a formal teaching capacity. On August 16, 2020, I participated in a Small Group Facilitation Session with two other students from my LDRS 663 class at Trinity Western University. We each took turns facilitating a unit of learning to practice the skills we have been learning. I facilitated a short lesson about Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). This post is a review of my facilitation, which can be viewed here.
I wanted to start the facilitation time with a clear illustration of a learning task that was beyond the ‘sweet spot’ of learning for my group. Because I knew that both of my classmates were not fluent in French (nor am I as demonstrated in the video), I chose to speak and assign an activity in French at the beginning. Looking back, I think I should have debriefed the experience of being asked to do something way above their level in a language they didn’t really understand instead of telling them how this illustration fit with the concept of ZPD.
One error I noticed early in my facilitation is that I should make sure students are familiar with the tools I am using before jumping into a lesson. I should have given a quick explanation of Kahoot before starting the presentation. I also need to be careful of putting learners on the spot. For the most part, I asked questions in a non-threatening way, but there was one instance where I asked Bob a question about differentiation that I felt could have been done more effectively.
Not only did I teach about the ZPD, but I think I also modelled scaffolding by pre-assessing how comfortable people were with the topic with my first question in Kahoot. Because of the learner’s responses, I was able to move through the material fairly quickly. If they had answered that question differently, I would have needed to give more explanation during the review times.
Finally, I think I could have had a stronger ending. It was good that I used the “Key Takeaways” slide, but maybe there should have also been an application question about how participants could use the ZPD in their own context. Or perhaps I could have connected to the opening question by asking it again or asking learners if they felt more confident with the topic (e.g. do you know more now?)
Overall, I wonder if I did too much teaching and not enough facilitation. For example, when I stated the information about Vygotsky and Bandura, perhaps I could have used a different approach to review this data. However, I think I did a good job of taking breaks and allowing for questions or comments from the participants. I also think I effectively tied in student comments to the material in the Kahoot. (e.g. Bob’s comment about planning levels of scaffolding and the Key Takeaway of planning in advance).
According to Schwarz, 2002, the facilitator’s main task is to help the group increase effectiveness by improving its process and structure (p. 5). What do you think? Did I spend too much time teaching and not enough time facilitating? Did I create and sustain a participatory environment and guide the group to useful outcomes? Any suggestions for how I could improve in the future?
Innovative Learning (n.d.). Zone of proximal development. http://www.innovativelearning.com/educational_psychology/development/zone-of-proximal-development.html
International Association of Facilitators. (2015). Core facilitator competencies. https://www.iaf-world.org/site/sites/default/files/IAF%20Core%20Competencies_1.pdf
Olding , L. (2020, August 12). Group facilitation assignment [personal communication]. https://vimeo.com/448385959/a7f9a5e19e
Schwarz, Roger M. (2002) The skilled facilitator: A comprehensive resource for consultants, facilitators, managers, trainers and coaches 2e. Jossey-Bass.
Smith, Mark K. (2001; 2009) Facilitating learning and change in groups. The Encyclopedia of Pedagogy and Informal Education. www.infed.org/mobi/facilitating-learning-and-change-in-groups-and-group-sessions/