Facilitation Versus Teaching

The idea of facilitating training programs and presentations is an intriguing one for many professionals.  But too often people have a misperception of facilitation thinking that it is more about standing in front of a group of people and demonstrating their expertise on a topic.  But the reality of good facilitation is that it is not about being the “sage on the stage,” but instead, about being simply a “guide on the side.” 

If we can recognize how the 21st Century function of training is shifting from ‘teaching’ to ‘facilitating’ then we will also realize that when facilitating a training program, it’s less about us and our content, and more about our participants and their learning needs.  Facilitation, therefore, speaks to a ‘learner-centered’ approach to conducting a training program rather than a ‘teacher-driven’ one. 

In training programs, facilitators manage the learning process as well as each and every learner within it.  They especially pay attention to group dynamics and the individuals at the center of them.  The role of the facilitator demands exceptional interpersonal skills, keen observation abilities, sharp insight, and of course, tact.  Facilitators have the knack for effectively drawing people out, balancing participation, and making a space for the more quiet members of a group. 

It is certainly critical for the facilitator to also have the aptitude for interacting in ways that add to a group’s learning rather than take away from it.  Like a musical conductor, the facilitator works to bring out the best in each member of the orchestra so that there is a successful group performance.  In a training program or workshop, the facilitator can be viewed as the one who helps participants learn from any activity.  In short, a facilitator’s role is to create a setting where discussion and interaction, and consequently, learning take place.

This is actually what can make even an average training program a unique and wonderful learning experience.  Mastering the techniques of facilitation can give anyone the ability to direct training programs that ultimately produce positive results.  So the bottom line in understanding what a facilitator is that this person makes the transfer of learning as easy, smooth, and simple as possible. 

This is what it takes to lead a training program of any length.  So if you or someone you know is curious about what it takes to be a facilitator then you can tell them this: being a successful facilitator means you have the ability to engage participants in the learning process; ask probing questions that deepen learning; listen intently to what’s being said and not being said; provide appropriate feedback that encourages participants to engage in the learning process; direct and support learners in ways that work for them; manage discussions and encourage their continuation; and possess the capacity at building positive relationships.  If that’s what interests you about facilitating a training program, then by all means, step right up!