Facilitation in Practice: Basic Skills
We have suggested in Chapter 9 that facilitation, by virtue of the relationship it builds, will enable reflective dialogue, and lead to reflective and critical learning in students. We move now to an exploration of the actual behaviour of facilitation, that is what the facilitator does that is different from lecturing, supervising or leading a seminar discussion. In fact many of the behaviours are the same, although the emphasis or the order of use may vary. We note that facilitator behaviours are best learnt experientially, that is in a facilitative context, rather than from a book. These chapters are not meant to replace such an experience, but to supplement courses or workshops that may be already on offer to teachers in higher education who wish to develop their facilitation skills.
We explore the broad brush qualities of a facilitator, identifying what can be learnt, that is behaviours that teachers can acquire themselves in order to adopt facilitative teaching methods with their students, and we describe the basic facilitation skills. These basic skills form the building blocks for further skills in Chapter 11.
The basic skills are, the facilitator's presence, her physical demeanour, as well as the environment she provides, the format of the session, non-verbal and verbal communications with students, and the attention she offers them by listening and responding to them.
We propose a largely person-centred model, while maintaining that such a stance does not preclude conflict, challenge and confrontation, with an emphasis on the quality of relationships which are formed between teacher and learner, as well as between learners. We begin our discussion with some thoughts about the environment and format in which teachers in higher education meet their students and how this might affect these relationships.