The Power Of Facilitation

Spring 2008 | | June 4, 2008 at 11:10 am

The beauty of using facilitation to initiate and spark change(s) lies in its simplicity. All school staff members can make use of it because its power—largely untapped—rests within each person. Every GEAR UP facilitator undergoes regular training on strategies that will engage School Leadership Teams to make changes in the school environment and instruction towards developing a college-going culture.

According to the research of educator Dr. William Glasser, we learn about 70% of what we discuss with each other.  However, to reach the 95% learning goal, we need to teach someone else.  And this is what facilitation can do for all of us.  In essence, it requires a minimum of effort for maximum outcomes because it is a “WE” process.  Schools that realize the power of the facilitation process embrace a “want to” attitude, a cooperative mindset, and a respect for mutual collaboration.

Effective facilitation is based upon asking powerful and relevant questions.  Educator and presenter Jamie McKenzie describes some of these questions on this website, , as essential, elaborating, clarifying, hypothetical, unanswerable, strategic, provocative, divergent, probing, inventive and planning. There are no priorities as to when these questions occur, and no mandate that all must be incorporated into a school’s facilitation process.
Effective facilitation has elements of questions, doubts, inquiries, silence and ambiguity—the latter often taken out of context as confusing and perplexing.  In reality, a bit of ambiguity often leads to solutions largely because “answers” are not premeditated or assumed.  People and staff who can handle ambiguity are often the most creative and productive contributors because they tend to see issues and problems wholistically…“the Big Picture.”

We often wonder why facilitation is not part of a school’s arsenal of tools for carrying out change.  To begin, it takes a commitment, a belief, and a “want to” attitude.  Long term reform takes time; but once the practice is instilled and the infrastructure in place, effective changes, great teaching, and the wonderment of learning will be worth the process.

Jamie McKenzie is the Editor of From Now On – The Educational Technology Journal, a Web-based “ZINE” published online since 1991. A graduate of Yale with an M.A. from Columbia and Ed.D. from Rutgers, Jamie has been a middle school teacher of English and social studies, an assistant principal, an elementary principal, assistant superintendent in Princeton (N.J.) and superintendent of two districts on the east coast of the U.S.  Jamie has published and spoken extensively on the introduction of new technologies to schools. In recent times he has paid particular attention to information technologies, questioning and powerful teaching, exploring how they might best transform classrooms and schools to support student centered, engaged learning.

Story contributed by: Don Mar, Regional Coordinator and Nancy Mar, Facilitator

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