Teachers are learners, too. In fact, the United States spends roughly $18 billion a year on teacher professional development. Because these adult learning sessions can represent a huge concentration of valuable resources — money as well as teacher and administrative time — facilitators need to ensure that participants are getting the most out of them. Importantly, these sessions may be one of the few times in the school day when team members have a chance to sit down, talk, and learn from one another.
Practice Protocols to Ensure Effective Facilitation
Being able to facilitate a successful meeting or discussion is not innate; leaders develop skills over time. “Facilitation is creating the conditions for a group to learn from one another, make progress on goals, and accomplish a task. Facilitation is a skill that can be taught and practiced,” says Candice Bocala, lecturer on education, co-author of The Internal Coherence Framework: Supporting Conditions for Continuous Improvement in Schools and an expert on professional development and evaluation.
Commonly used by teachers with their students to foster classroom collaboration, discussion protocols can also help educators spur a more meaningful and efficient kind of adult learning. These activities — with distinctive stages that participants walk through — ensure that goals are met and everyone’s voice is heard, helping develop communal understanding when new material is introduced. A good protocol “provides structure and routine, so when a group is having a meeting or solving a problem, it can take some of the mystery away about what’s supposed to happen and allows facilitator and participants to relax because they know they’ll arrive at a goal,” Bocala says.
Successful Facilitators Employ These Simple Tactics
- Be intentional about building collaboration into the structure of a meeting. The purpose of a meeting should be to share ideas and engage in dialogue. “As a facilitator, what I’m looking for is this: Is there enough participation within the group so there was a point for us to meet as a group?” Bocala says. “Otherwise, you could have just made announcements or sent out a newsletter. That’s not the point of getting people together. The value is in the time people spent in the room together in order to learn from each other.”
- Listen for phrases like “You changed my mind when…” or “I did that thing you talked about and here’s what happened.” This shows that collaboration and learning are happening and that people are building off of ideas introduced in these meetings.