Demonstrating the impact of good versus poor facilitation

Teaching youth how to use good facilitation tools helps them build life skills, confidence and leadership.

Teaching youth how to use good facilitation tools or techniques provides them with amazing skills for the present and future. It will help them build life skills, build confidence when participating in discussions or even help expand into leading a discussion.

A good facilitator will do the following and more during a discussion:

  • Pre-set the room properly.
  • Place a newsprint in a place where everyone can see it.
  • Secure a reporter so they can keep their eyes on the group while talking.
  • Have the reporter use markers easy to read.
  • Ask for clarification.
  • Look for ways to include quieter participants.

For tools on how to become a good facilitator, please see the Michigan State University Extension article “Techniques of successful facilitators: Minor, yet major, things to remember” by Ann Chastain.

A fun way to show a new group about facilitation and the impact of why facilitation skills are so important is to try not utilizing the above mentioned tools at all. Instead, a facilitator would try the following:

  • Set the room poorly by placing chairs in a class room style without a lot of room.
  • Use newsprint, but do not place it on an easel. Instead, put it on your knee or hold it up to the wall to write on – do not tape it up.
  • Use a hard to read marker like yellow or light orange.
  • After asking a question of the group, have your back to them as you write what you think they said so you cannot read the group’s body language.
  • Do not ask for clarification or repeat what they have said to be sure you captured it correctly.

Once the facilitator has finished the first discussion about a chosen topic, move into a second topic, but this time, use all the appropriate facilitation tools. Once the two discussions are finished, the group will probably have figured out what the facilitator’s intentions were. The facilitator should still explain the situation.

The next step is to debrief the two formats and talk through what the group thought worked, what didn’t, what they found frustrating and so on. This approach really helps to show the impact of all the skills and tools the class will be learning and how putting those altogether will make the end result stronger, more accurate and successful. In turn, it will excite and energize the group about the topic and the upcoming training.

Teaching the skills are the first step, but then any strong facilitator only gets that way by practicing. Utilizing this same scenario in practice sessions can also be fun and very impactful in helping participants remember how to use the tools and what each tool does to help a discussion. Practice may not make a facilitator perfect, but it will certainly make them a strong facilitator.

For more facilitation articles, search for “facilitation” at the Michigan State University Extension website.

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