Facilitation is the process of enabling groups to work cooperatively and effectively. Co-facilitating becomes important when people must cooperate to complete learning tasks in environments like schools, universities, churches, and workplaces. Peers co-facilitate by taking and sharing leadership roles to move the peer learning process along faster and/or more efficiently. The main purpose of co-facilitation is to offer and receive support from a cohort who is invested in the project.
Co-facilitating in peer-to-peer learning
Co-facilitation commonly can be found in specific collaborations between two or more people who need each other to complete a task, for example, learn about a given subject, author a technical report, resolve a problem, or conduct research Dr. Fink writes in Creating Significant Learning Experiences (Jossey Bass, 2003) that “in this process, there has to be some kind of change in the learner. No change, no learning”. Significant learning requires that there be some kind of lasting change that is important in terms of the learner’s life; therefore a way to measure the effectiveness of co-facilitation is if there’s been a change in the peer group.
Which roles, competences and skills do we need to co-facilitate?
Co-facilitation roles can be found in groups/teams like basketball, health, Alcoholics Anonymous, spiritual groups, etc. For example, self-help groups are composed of people who gather to share common problems and experiences associated with a particular problem, condition, illness, or personal circumstance.
“Freedom to Learn” is among the learning theories for which Carl Rogers was known. Commenting on Rogers’ related work, Barrett-Lennard remarked: “…he offered several hypothesized general principles. These included: We cannot teach another person directly; we can only facilitate his learning. The structure and organization of the self appears to become more rigid under threat; to relax its boundaries when completely free from threat…. The educational situation which most effectively promotes significant learning is one in which 1) threat to the self of the learner is reduced a minimum, and 2) differentiated perception of the field of experience is facilitated.”
Part of the facilitator’s role is to create a safe place for learning to take place; but they should also challenge the participants. As John Wooden said of coaching: ”Be quick, but don’t hurry.” John Heron articulated this nature of facilitation well:
”Too much hierarchical control, and participants become passive and dependent or hostile and resistant. They wane in self-direction, which is the core of all learning. Too much cooperative guidance may degenerate into a subtle kind of nurturing oppression, and may deny the group the benefits of totally autonomous learning. Too much autonomy for participants and laissez-faire on your part, and they may wallow in ignorance, misconception, and chaos.”
Co-facilitating discussion forums
If peers are preparing a forum discussion, here are some ideas from “The tool box”, that can be helpful as guidelines for running this type of meetings:
- Explain the importance of collaborative group work and make it a requirement.
- Establish how you will communicate in the forum
- Be aware of mutual blind spots in facilitating and observing others
- Watch out for different rhythms of intervention”.
Co-facilitating wiki workflows
A good place to begin for any co-facilitators working with a wiki is Wikipedia’s famous “5 Pillars.”
- Wikipedia is an encyclopedia
- Wikipedia writes articles from a neutral point-of-view
- Wikipedia is free content that anyone can edit, use, modify, and distribute.
- Editors should interact with each other in a respectful and civil manner.
- Wikipedia does not have firm rules.
Co-facilitating live sessions
Learning experiences in Live Sessions which include Social Media and co facilitating exercise is described in the article” Learning Re-imagined: Participatory, Peer, Global, Online“ by Howard Rheingold, we have taken inspiration from his points and re-mixed them slightly.
- Establish roles for co facilitators and participants (moderator, technical recorder, writer to take notes, etc..).
- Provide a reading list – indicating what is really important and what is more “nice to know”.
- Ideally before, or when the session begins, take some time to allow participants to familiarize themselves with the tools.
- Introduce yourself and your peers (co-facilitators) and ask the members to make a brief introduction of themselves.
- Review the agenda for the session, both to make sure there is an agenda (at the start) and to make sure everything was covered (at the end).
- Online tools like: Mumble, Diigo, Etherpad and chat can be used to communicate and interact in the session. However, consider whether participants are interested in experimenting with lots of tools. Often more tools (and some content) can end up making tasks harder.
- Keep it Simple Stupid, or KISS: Remember you came together with your peers to accomplish something not to discuss an agenda or play with online tools; keep everything as easily accessible as possible to ensure you realize your peer goals.
Paragogical Action Review
Following any co-facilitating session it is essential that the co-facilitators come together and review what happened. A useful framework is the Paragogical Action Review (PAR), based on the U.S. Army’s After Action Review, which has four components, to which we have added a fifth. A further difference in the Paragogical Action Review is that it need not take place “after” the action, but can be integrated into the action (accordingly, we use a present tense phrasing).
- Review what was supposed to happen (training plans)
- Establish what is happening
- Determine what’s right or wrong with what’s happening
- Determine how the task should be done differently in the future
- Share your notes with your other peers for feedback and to improve things going forward
Experiences and experiments in co-facilitating
- Learning Reimagined: Participatory, Peer, Global, Online, by Howard Rheingold
- Research Gate is a network dedicated to science and research, in which members connect, collaborate and discover scientific publications, jobs and conferences.
- Creating and Facilitating Peer Support Groups, by The Community Tool Box
- Facilitation Tips, by Villanova University
- Herding Passionate Cats: The Role of Facilitator in a Peer Learning, by Pippa Buchanan
- Reflective Peer Facilitation: Crafting Collaborative Self-Assessment, by Dale Vidmar, Southern Oregon University Library
- Effective Co-Facilitation, by Everywoman´s Center, University of Massachussetts
- Peer Education: Training of Trainers Manual; UN Interagency Group on Young Peoples Health
- Co Facilitating: Advantages & Potential Disadvantages. J. Willam Pfeifer and John E Johnes
- A summary of John Heron’s model on role of facilitators
- Carl Rogers, Core Conditions and Education, Encyclopedia of Informal Education
- Peer Mediation, Study Guides and Strategies
- Co-Facilitation: The Advantages and Challenges, Canadian Union of Public Employees
- Bohemia Interactive Community Wiki Guidelines
- Barrett-Lennard, G. T. (1998) Carl Roger’s Helping System. Journey and Substance, London: Sage
- 5 Pillars of Wikipedia, from Wikipedia
- Training the Force, (2002) US Army Field Manual #FM 7-0 (FM 25-100)
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