Last week, I received this photo from a former colleague. A team of us had just happily completed a low ropes course–including the “spider web” in the photo. (That’s me in the lower right hand corner-circa mid 80’s). The spider web metaphor in this training is powerful.
In our 4MAT train the trainer programs, we often describe the process of facilitating learning as weaving a web. As a facilitator, you draw people into the conversation and link the emerging thoughts together. You redirect the conversation, based on the common objectives the group has defined. You help the learner to see the emerging pattern of thought.
The language you use helps weave the conversation together. Here are some power phrases I’ve heard and often used that work welly:
“Susan brought up a great point. Specifically, the point you raise about ….is relevant to our conversation today.”
Here the facilitator acknowledges the value of the contribution. This encourages further sharing by the group. Notice how one, specific point was acknowledged, isolated and linked to the relevance of the learning conversation.
“Let’s talk about your expectations today and see how we can customize our time together.”
When you begin a learning design with an activity that defines expectations, you build collective ownership in the learning process.
“Let’s go back to our expectations mindmap and see how we are doing.”
A clear set of expectations will help you manage side-bar conversations. If the dialogue starts to move off-track, you can lead the group back to the expectations. This will help the group table conversations that are not immediately relevant to the learning objectives.
“Is everyone feeling comfortable with this? Are we ready to move to (applying this, the next piece of information)? Is there any part of the conversation that needs to be revisited?”
These questions allow the facilitator to check in on the comfort level. Notice there is no mention of “Do you understand?” Many learners are not comfortable acknowledging that they are confused.
“That’s a great question. Does anyone want to add to this or respond to Mike’s question?”
Here the facilitator is thrown a question. The facilitator’s response expands the dialogue to the larger group. When a learner asks a question, repeat it for the whole group or pose it to the group. Otherwise, the conversation narrows to a one-on-one and everyone else checks out.
What works for you? Share any questions, phrases or techniques that work well for you.