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Adults Matter A Lot

You’ve seen the sage on the stage before, standing proud and tall above an audience going on about some important subject as the expert, the official and the leader. Some teachers approach their classrooms this way, telling students what and how to think, where to look and what to do.

I’ve been working with facilitators across the country and around the world for more than 20 years. My experience and research shows a wide gap between people who teach and people who facilitate. Adults matter a LOT.

Facilitator or Teacher?

There are many differences between traditional teachers and adults who facilitate. A teacher assumes the role I described at the beginning and takes charge of teaching. Using constructed lesson plans, they follow detailed pathways towards clear objectives. Measuring finite details, they decide what students learned and judge students with grades.

In the programs I’ve worked with, facilitators might not be experts like teachers are. I train program leaders in facilitation skills like group dynamics, strategic planning, conflict resolution, and team building. Facilitators learn to quickly determine group needs by asking questions and maintaining focus. They bring young people toward identifying their own ground rules and learning objectives, and guide the process towards getting to those goals. Finally, they lead children and youth in reflection.

Reflecting on Facilitation

If this sounds familiar to you or if you consider yourself a facilitator already, ask yourself these questions:

  • What assumptions do you have about facilitation?
  • Who were the best facilitators you’ve ever experienced? The worst? What made them that way?
  • What is your goal for being an excellent facilitator- productivity, interaction, fun? Do you think you can facilitate all those at once?
  • Why do you really want to learn more about excellent facilitation?
  • Have you experienced facilitation working where traditional teaching has failed?

Once you’ve answered those questions, examine your own practices with young people to see what you want to learn and the best ways you think you can learn it. Then share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Adam F.C. Fletcher is available to consult, speak, and write.