Facilitation is an art that involves a combination of practice, observation, knowledge of theory, and creativity. Effective facilitators act as creative “designers” of lessons and experiences. Through careful observation of all the elements involved in a group’s personality and setting, they intentionally choose and order activities in order to maximize learning opportunities. Many educators call this important aspect of facilitation and teaching “sequencing.”
Sequencing involves consciously and thoughtfully presenting activities in a specific order to enhance learning outcomes and maintain the emotional and physical safety of the group. There is no one correct method or specific model for sequencing programs or classroom lessons. It is a dynamic process that takes into careful consideration the group’s goals and agenda, participant’s emotional and physical safety, the personality and dynamics of the group, available activities, allotted time, and the physical environment.
Effective facilitators pay attention to the group development process and allow time for trust building. It is important to balance the level of the activity and or challenge presented and the participant’s ability to meet the challenge or activity. The time needed for participants to create relationships and build trust is different for every group. When this connection and sense of community are developed, groups will take learning further and get more benefit out of the group activities they engage in. Allow time for this happen by choosing activities that build upon each other.
Recognize that every group is unique. Every group has a different personality and participates in activities in a different way. Even when working with groups with similar characteristics, in the same setting, with the same program goals, the actual lesson plan changes with each different group in response to that group’s particular personality and needs. Activities you carefully plan prior to a workshop or group session may be specifically relevant for one groups’ personality and needs and not another’s. This is one of the exciting aspects of group facilitation. There is great variety in group experience and varying opportunities to take advantage of teachable moments. With experience, facilitators develop the art of reading their group and adjusting activities in a creative way throughout group process to move learning and change forward.
Careful sequencing maximizes participation by allowing people to engage at a pace that works for them. Experiential group work can be very powerful. If groups are ready to engage in the process, great things can occur. Conversely, if a group is not emotionally or physically ready to encounter certain “learning adventures,” the experience could be damaging or inhibit growth and learning. Effective facilitators/teachers always approach activities with intention, thoughtfulness, and flexibility—evaluating their groups and refining their plans as needed.
Many times I have carefully planned out activities and prepared supplies for a group in advance only to completely let that plan go after the group has shown me that they had very different needs than I expected. Each individual class always varies in their response to activities as well, gleaning different insights and lessons from the experience. That is the beauty of what we do in experiential facilitation. We meet people where they are and nurture spontaneity of experience to take advantage of teachable moments.
Join in for upcoming segments focused on creating the lasting lessons and connections through reflective practice.
This lesson is compliments of Jennifer Stanchfield, author of “Tips & Tools: The Art of Experiential Group Facilitation“.
To find more information and to contact the author, please visit: www.experientialtools.com