facilitator is literally defined as “one who helps others learn or who
helps make things easy.” A
business facilitator helps participants to collaborate as they explore a
topic or issue. The goal is
to encourage participants to think productively and ultimately to
articulate key ideas, to ask vital questions, to uncover variables, to
find solutions, and/or to identify productive actions. The
facilitator may or may not be a content expert.
The word Trainer is
often used interchangeably with facilitator,
but the trainer usually
connotes a facilitator who has content expertise.
Both facilitators and trainers must understand how adults learn
and how to draw out the best thinking of a group.
As you build a learning
event or a meeting, make sure that it meets “facilitators’ code.”
In other words, "How well does your intended
approach match with adult learning theory?"
As you build your training, assess your approach against the
questions that follow:
Are you allowing your
participants to be active learners?
This means that you provide the raw material for them to build
learning constructs, to solve problems, and to discover and explore new
Do you articulate a clear
purpose for learning—both the overall goals as well as individual
Do your lessons and
activities connect with the groups experience and shared
responsibilities? Can you
Have you included a vehicle
for participants to express their concerns?
Have you allowed for
different learning styles?
Do you draw upon the
expertise of the group?
Have you clarified how the
learning will help the participants in their jobs?
Does your material
challenge their thinking and encourage them to envision new ways of
Have you built in time for
reflection and self-assessment?
Have you allowed adequate
time for participants to share their learning with each other?
Are you sure that you and
the participants share a common language that defines and delineates the
topic at hand?
Do you use strategies to
include all participants in the learning?
Dimensions of the Facilitator’s Role
business facilitator’s role includes three general dimensions:
To help the group move toward specified goals or outcomes
To initiate, sustain, and assess a group process that is efficient
To involve all participants and reaffirm their contributions
does effective training look like? Below
are some characteristics of learning events that have an impact:
based and rooted in adult learning theory
into the organization’s goals and values
a high level of new content
learning has clear outcomes
on the real-world needs of the participants
see the training as a means to strengthen their effectiveness
collaborative problem solving
material connects with participant experience
participants feel they are part of a learning community
participants understand that they are valued for their learning efforts
shared learning where the participants can talk directly and
meaningfully to one another
so that participants have adequate time to assimilate the material and
then apply it.
have ongoing updates, support, and practice
can see how the new learning has an impact on what they do
you plan out what you want your participants to do consider the
Match your content to the needs of the group.
It is important to challenge your participants and move toward
new learning. Adult learners learn best when the material is thought
Carefully outline your session.
There is nothing more frustrating for busy adult learners than a
meeting or learning event that meanders or feels random.
Most learners what to know where they are going, how they are
going to get there, and the milestones they can expect on their journey
together. Of course the
facilitator must remain flexible to develop unexpected topics that
emerge from the participants. Nevertheless,
the overall flow of the workshop must be clear and sacred.
Be certain that your agenda has a lively pace to it.
Construct the learning event so that it has a sense
of wholeness. This means it
should have a beginning, middle, and end.
Depending on the length of the session, include
various exercises and activities that are both meaningful and consistent
with your participants. It
is always a good idea to get the participants out of their chairs on
occasion. Be certain that
you allow enough time for the activities to unfold fully but not drag.
When you introduce an
activity make certain that it has a clear and meaningful context. This means making it
perfectly clear why the
participants are doing the activity (objective); how
it fits in with the overall flow of learning; and what they will get out of the activity (debrief each activity so
participants can articulate what they have learned).
Be certain that you include enough to keep the
session lively. However,
identify particular agenda items that you could shorten or eliminate in
case you run short of time. If
you edit on your feet, do not jeopardize the “wholeness” of the
training or the goals.
Ask yourself if your materials are visually
appealing. When a
participant enters the training room, he or she should see
that this will be a place of learning.
Use PowerPoint in moderation.
Don’t put your notes on slides--make them readable, relevant,
brief, uncluttered, and visually appealing.
Build in adequate break time.
Be careful not to break the power of an activity by disrupting it
with a break.
Since everyone learns and retains information
differently, design your training using a variety of delivery methods.
to the National Training Laboratory, research shows the
following average retention rates for different training methods:
50% Discussion Group
75% Practice by Doing
90% Teaching Others
Workshop Begins Before any kind of workplace learning
event, from team meetings to professional development workshops, the
facilitator must take care of some basics before it begins:
Survey the location before the session to ensure
there is adequate lighting, disability access, parking (if the session
is off site), bathrooms, etc.
Check to make sure that the both the space and
lighting are adequate.
Be certain that all supplies are ready to go
Check equipment to make sure everything is working
and correctly placed
Arrange the room to maximize learning
Be certain that all participants receive pre-training
notification and reminders as well as pre-training readings and handouts
(this includes an agenda).
Know your participants before the training
begins. Know their educational backgrounds, age spread, work experience,
titles and roles, and their developmental needs.
Tasks Early in your training session the
facilitator must clarify basic housekeeping concerns as identified
below. Although they are
necessary, you don’t want to burn too much time on these or gobble of
prime learning time.
Establish ground rules or working agreements so that
all participants know the group norms and expectations.
Frequently it is best just to ask the group to identify three to
five for themselves.
Ask the participants to articulate their expectations
for the session. Ask them to
tell the others what they would like to learn or get out of the session.
If participants don’t know everyone, provide time
for introductions. Note
however that a common facilitator mistake is to let introductions go on
too long. It not only slows
down the training, but it also burns up prime learning time when the
participants are at their freshest.
Don’t forget to introduce yourself (keep it warm, brief,
personal, and humble).
Give the group your facilitation framework.
This includes two basic items:
The goals of the session
A road map indicating how you will achieve
those goals—your outline or agenda.
Define terms if necessary.
To save time, you may want to have terms defined in a handout or
printed on newsprint and pasted around the room.
Check for agreement, “Is this a good way for us to
spend our time together?”
Introduce your topic with an opening that sets the
tone for the session. For
example, if you expect the participants to discuss throughout the
workshop, it may be helpful to get them talking early in the session.
If the participants sit and listen to long trainer lecture, they
will learn that they are to be passive in the session and it will be
harder to get them actively discussing later on.
Whatever introductory approach you use, it should accomplish the
It should stimulate interest and engage the learners
It should set the learning tone.
It should indicate how you want the learners to
engage with the material and each other
It should provoke participant thinking
It should launch the material toward your learning
Although there are many ways to introduce content, a typical flow
is as follows:
This can be in the form of a question, a thought provoking story, an
example, a set of facts or statistics, a shared experience, a metaphor,
etc. Give enough background
to launch a healthy and meaningful discussion.
Allow the participants to respond and discuss.
Draw on various discussion strategies.
Focus and Narrow:
Move the group to the heart of the topic.
Clarify with examples, added information, an exercise or activity
Synthesize and Clarify:
Highlight responses that are the most relevant
Practice or reinforcement
Check for Understanding
Clarify key points. It is
important to have the participants articulate what they are learning.
Bridge to the next activity or content segment of the agenda.
It is important that the participants understand where they have
been, where they are going, and why it makes sense to go in that