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Are You Using Facilitation Skills?

Posted by Marsha Weisleder on 3/30/15 4:00 AM
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Have you ever wondered what your training style is and where it came from? Do you like presenting most of the material in the course or do you prefer when participants direct their own learning? Do you like controlling discussions or prefer listening to what others have to say?

Back in the day, if you were a trainer the focus was always on you: deliver the content and get through the material. You were like a “sage on the stage,” standing on your platform, all-knowing and presenting the content. Over the years, training evolved with a new focus on the learners and the process. An alternative phrase emerged, “Be the guide on the side,” meaning, you’re not the star of the show—the learners are! Your role is to use facilitation skills to monitor and coach them to desired performance.

In our Advanced Instructional Techniques workshop, we analyze training styles, using a Learning Style Inventory. The inventory scores you on a continuum from Dependent, to Collaborative, to Independent. So, if your score is high on the Dependent side, you feel that learning is dependent on you, the instructor, and the participants need you for learning to occur. At the other extreme, if you score high on the Independent side, you feel that learning can happen independently of you. A high Collaborative score would mean that learning happens when instructors and learners work together.

If you’ve been to any of my classes, you’d know that my preference is to assume the Independent role all day long. I enjoy experiential learning, where the learners discover the content on their own and learn by doing. Unfortunately, I can’t take on this style for an entire session. Let’s face it, there are times when I need to turn on the D (Dependent Style), become more assertive, and be the expert in the room. Or I may need to get people back from breaks, stop side-bar discussions, or manage time.

So, what’s the best approach? Well, a true facilitator is always moving along this continuum, depending on the content, the learners’ job experience, and the training time available, just to name a few. Kind of like the Kenny Rogers’ song, “The Gambler,” where “you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” Well, hopefully, we’re not going to walk away or run!

If I want to be more Dependent, I can do any of the following: stand, set up the room in rows, lecture, assign seating, answer all questions by myself, pre-plan all course activities, ask learners to hold their questions to the end, speak with a loud voice, always start on time, and direct questions to specific learners.

If I want to be more Independent, I can choose from these options: sit, ask questions, set up the room in circles, use group exercises, poll for group opinions, have optional activities, use puzzles and cartoons, let learners choose their seats, use group discussions, be quiet at times, invite rebuttal, and find out what the learners already know.

So, what’s your training style? Do you use facilitation skills or focus more on lecture? Are you comfortable at either extreme?

Want to explore further? Consider taking our Advanced Instructional Techniques workshop!


Dealing with Difficult Participants



Marsha has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience. She went on to attend Osgoode Hall Law School and practiced civil litigation for a few years. While working for a company as their in-house legal counsel, Marsha fell into a training position and never looked back! Each day, Marsha brings passion and excitement to her workshops, always encouraging her participants to find their own passion as well. Outside of the classroom, Marsha loves to spend time with her family, travel, and stay active. Of course her main obsession is Elvis! Some people might think she’s a little over-the-top about him, but doesn’t everyone have an Elvis shrine in their home? Maybe not…

Topics: facilitation, instructional techniques

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Our very own world-class course leaders share their experiences, tips, best practices, and expertise on virtual training, instructional design, needs analysis, e-learning, delivery, evaluation, presentation skills, facilitation, and much more!

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