Doug Kerr at FDW

Photo courtesy of Dan Anthon, Royal Roads University

A few weeks ago I wrote a post announcing that I had co-facilitated the Facilitator Development Workshop (FDW) at Royal Roads University in September, at which I got ‘mentored in’ to the role of Trainer by working with Doug Kerr. The FDW is the course that teaches people how to facilitate the Instructional Skills Workshop, and the Trainer role facilitates the FDW. This post is about some of the things I learned through the process.

While preparing for the workshop, Doug had asked both David (my colleague and co-facilitator) and I about our personal goals in learning how to facilitate the workshop. I set some light goals for myself about making sure I put in the time to prepare well – and feeling prepared while facilitating it – because I was very conscious that this was a workshop that I had not facilitated before and I wanted to feel comfortable and ready. I also wanted to continue working on asking good questions of participants.

Although it was good to set these initial goals, not surprisingly I came away with a lot more from the four-day workshop. The feedback I received from Doug, David and the other participants as I was working in the Trainer role (which facilitates feedback for the Facilitators learning how to facilitate feedback sessions for ISW Instructors) gave me some fantastic food for thought which will help me grow my facilitation practice. Some of the things the participants said about my facilitation were that:

  • I asked clarifying questions
  • I gave direct feedback
  • I drove people to think more deeply, to think about the bigger issues
  • I created a safe environment so that others could take risks
  • I put other people at the centre, not myself
  • I maintained good focus and was engaged
  • My time management was good
  • I was very courteous

Words shared about my facilitation were “freedom”, “focus, “relational”, “open”, “free flowing”.

As always, though, there were points that got me thinking more deeply about the things that I was doing as a facilitator. Some of them were:

  • It’s OK to sometimes leave the “big questions” with the participants unanswered – send them off thinking of them, letting them ‘swirl’
  • Remember to leave time for people to formulate responses after asking them the big questions; “wait for it”…use that silence!
  • Watch non-verbals; be aware of when people may need to speak
  • Showing video clips (of the instructor facilitating) in the feedback session is a validation of the instructor – ensure to take full advantage of this (as sometimes I favour robust discussion about teaching concepts over showing several clips, and just choose/have time to show one)
  • Tie feedback back to the instructional technique the person was using – be more specific rather than general

In addition, I learned something about taking risks when in the Trainer or Facilitator role. When we facilitate the Instructional Skills Workshop, we encourage participants to take risks and stretch and challenge themselves in their teaching practice. When co-facilitating the FDW I did a couple of things that I hoped would model taking a risk myself, so that it might motivate the participants to take one as well. But truthfully, although the results of the risks were¬†fine they didn’t always work out 100%, and I learned something from the impact of them, or what the impact potentially could have been if I hadn’t have been working with participants who are colleagues of mine at RRU with whom I already have a pretty deep level of trust.

I definitely don’t want to stop taking risks and challenging myself when facilitating feedback for ISW Facilitators and Instructors in the Trainer or Facilitator role but I think that the feedback from the participants helped me to think more about what the potential impact of my risk taking could be on others if I surprised people with whatever I was going to do differently. I’d like to try to minimize any negative impact on people who may be at the centre of the risky process so what I learned was the value of thinking risk taking through a little more before jumping in with both feet. In practicality, this would involve perhaps checking in with the instructor or facilitator about my plan to take a risk in facilitating their feedback session differently, to see if they are “game” to try something new, and so that they don’t worry about why I’m doing something different just with them.

Overall I found it an extremely valuable experience to learn about and practice being an FDW Trainer with such a supportive and talented group of people and I will continue to reflect on the experience. Being part of the Instructional Skills Workshop has been a rewarding experience for me since I first took it as a participant in 2002 and I look forward to continuing to deepen my teaching practice through my involvement with it for some time to come.