As part of my new (although not so new anymore) job, I was asked to attend the Instructional Skills Workshop and the Facilitator Development Workshop. Both workshops were run and facilitated by my department, the Centre for Leadership in Learning. Here’s some reflections about my reflections.
While the skills based workshop is interesting, it was fun to play around with time and planning. I did learn that I need to be able to tighten up my timing when I instruct with new material. However, my daily life doesn’t necessarily need this constraint. The workshops I lead are typically fairly prescribed, have a flow and a rhythm all their own. I suppose I can add some more interactive elements, more discussion about the needs of users – which in turn would allow for deeper embedding of the skills I typically teach.
The facilitation workshop was far more involved, much more draining (never mind being five straight days, rather than the four days interspersed) and far more revealing. It was interesting that in facilitation feedback circles, I tended to be much more reflective, taking much more time to respond than when I would be facilitating, or teaching where I would be able to respond almost immediately. It’s an interesting difference, because I always thought I was a bit of a ponderer, taking time to craft my answers carefully, almost labouring over the language and words. I’m still thinking about what the difference is.
The really key point that I came away with was that facilitation is difficult to do in person, it does rely on non-verbal cues to really work well. As a facilitator you have to gather the mood of the room, have some sense of how things are going. Are those possible online? Is it possible to sense how someone feels online? I suppose, but it’s fundamentally different. The mediation that occurs makes it more difficult to get a sense, or to “feel” how something is going. I suspect that reducing the transactional distance is one strategy that helps, but still I can’t imagine facilitation face-to-face has a great effect on one’s skill online.
So, I leave you with this: what skills does a facilitator need online, in addition to the ones that they would need in a face-to-face environment?