Today’s learning facilitator

I wonder how people in the profession appraise themselves of their skills as learning facilitators? If we’re fortunate enough to work with other facilitators, we can often learn well by observing how they’re facilitating, asking questions and getting feedback. Sometimes we might be supervised and a more experienced senior may provide some guiding thoughts on how to hone the craft.

But what about for those who are independents or a sole person doing the job internally? How can they know if they’re using the range of tools, techniques and technologies available to them?

I will grant that there are basics any learning facilitator should have in their pocket: working well with groups, able to ask good questions, build rapport well, use space well, use flipcharts and post it notes with clear purpose. So what’s next?

Dialogue is key

I’ve been really paying attention to the dialogue that happens in a room with people who are together to learn. How is that dialogue happening? What focus does it have? How have I invited people to have dialogue? How, through my words, am I being inclusive? How, through my questions, am I being inquisitive without being rude or obnoxious?

The belief that diversity is life

I use my words purposefully. I believe that in diversity we have life. I’m not afraid to shy away from difficult conversations with the group where I sense something fundamental is being overlooked.

I also fundamentally believe that when we show people we value them they flourish. That’s hard to do when it’s one to one, let alone with a group of people.

Technology and reading

People are very comfortable reading via mobile and tablet devices. I try actively to point people to resources online where they can go back and revisit the content in their preferred medium.

Massively, this means doing away with workbooks. What relevance do they have when the same information can be provided via digital means? And I don’t just mean creating a PDF and sharing it on email.

Share your power

I know facilitators who do this incredibly well. Facilitation is about the group having power and using that to progress. Too often the facilitator is driven by a need for relevance and importance by driving the direction of the discussion.

When we share power, we create equity and fairness. As adults, we value those things a lot, and when we’re made to feel part of that we open our possibilities to be our awesome selves.

Parameters matter, freedom reigns

When asking a group to do something, often their valued insights arrive because they’ve had clear instructions and then given freedom to just blow things up. Sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it totally does.

Co-creation is the way forward

Emergent learning and co-creation of learning is deeply valuable and highly motivating. Allowing a group to develop their thinking and themselves with little direction is a challenge. People need structured process to do that, right? No, they really don’t. They just need safety and security in the facilitator that whatever is about to happen is useful and purposeful.

Share learning

Sharing your learning seems like an odd activity. Why should I have to? What I learned is private to me. Quite right too. But what about people struggling to know how to act? Or how to apply their new knowledge?

When we share learning openly, it invites people to hear what’s going on inside of you.

A lot of the above sounds proper soft and fluffy. It’s because I’m talking about things which most people are deeply uncomfortable with. These things can’t be measured or fixed easily. It’s not engineering and there are few right answers. Most people don’t know how to apply these thoughts purposefully in a learning environment. I’ve probably missed a lot out, but think this range of skills are vital to modern learning facilitators.


Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

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