Learning the Art of Online Facilitation: March 1-21, 2007

Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators

by Stephen Thorpe -
Number of replies: 0

Hi Sylvia,

I wanted to respond to the point you raised earlier (also Leigh Blackall's) about drawing a distinction between teaching and facilitating. I work in both domains and there are some differences between the role of a 'facilitative trainer' and that of the 'group facilitator'. The key distinctions for me lie in the areas of decision making and content neutrality.

As a trainer my primary role is the transferring of some kind of information or knowledge to individual participants. I also manage the group process while individual learning is taking place and am also involved in assessing individual performance in some way. As a teacher I can often be very facilitative, and this is great for learning. However, the primary role is individual learning within a particular sphere of knowledge. As the trainer I choose how and when students are involved in the decision making processes.

Group facilitation, on the other hand, is a process in which a person who is acceptable to all members of a group, is substantively neutral, and has no decision-making authority, intervenes to help a group improve the way it identifies and solves problems, and makes decisions, in order to increase the group’s effectiveness.

I'd really be interested in what others think or have grappeled with in this area.

Stephen Thorpe

Some good resources that discuss content neutrality, decision making and the differences between the facilitator and trainer roles:

Chapter 2 of the 2007 edition of The Art of Facilitation by Dale Hunter.
For a useful diagram see page 28 of The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook, also chapter 3 by Roger Schwarz discusses the differences between facilitator, consultant, coach, trainer and leader.
Chapter 30 of the IAF Handbook of Group Facilitation
Also a reprint of a classic by John (Sam) Keltner Facilitation: Catalyst for Group Problem Solving in the December 06 issue of the IAF Group Facilitation Journal