Facilitating Groups is Really Hard

Categories: Teaching
October 8, 2018

In schools we have asked people to coach and mentor individuals.  We work with one person and support her growth through coaching conversations and collaboration.  We wield these skills of pausing, probing, paraphrasing. We listen and ask really effective questions.  We do this with just one person and it is hard.

In schools we have asked people to facilitate PLC, grade level and content teams.  We’ve assumed to some degree that because we teach classrooms full of students that we have skills and confidence in leading groups of adults.  We do the work with diverse people that have dynamic layers of relationships, backgrounds, beliefs and skills. We do this not only with one person, but with whole groups and it is really hard.

Effective facilitation and being a confident facilitator are not by accident.  It is the result of exploring beliefs about our peers, our relationships with them and our role for them.  It is the result of a robust tool kit that is connected to, but not in direct correlation, to our classroom skills.  It is the result of our building a community, developing relationships and crafting meaningful context to our shared time together.  Being an effective facilitator is by design, not default.

One foundation of our design is how we bring people into meetings and collaborative learning.  Our first moves are paramount to the quality of the engagement that follows. We offer people the opportunity to become ‘”grounded” and transition from the other intellectual, emotional and physical spaces from where they come.  Grounding is a focused, simple structure, with a tight timeline, honoring to those involved. Bring people into space with care and purpose and you’ll likely get the best of their thinking.

Skip the grounding, however, and you have a room full of people who may or may not “arrive” for a while. Been there, done that.

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