School improvement efforts have shown us that leadership is possible at every level of an education system. However, leaders need strong facilitation and communication skills for leading learning communities where collaborative learning can thrive. The word facilitate means “to make easier”. A facilitator tries to make it easier for a group to do its work and be effective in reaching articulated goals. Facilitative skills in themselves are very cross-disciplinary.
Increasingly, in group and co-learning situations, it appears that coaching and facilitation skills can be blended to complement each other. Both processes benefit from the establishment of working norms. While facilitation helps a group move forward by using structures such as protocols as discussion guides, coaching can help individuals within a group experience move forward. One distinction that stands out is that a facilitator usually takes a neutral stance and is substantially process centered while a coach may be more content and “individual” centered, helping others make better sense of specific learning. Peer coaching is an interactive process between two or more teaching professionals that is used to share successful practice through collaboration and reflection.
The good news is that both kinds of helping stances make a difference in many learning situations. One can learn to be a facilitative leader, a facilitative coach, a facilitative consultant and a facilitative teacher. Both stances are built on establishing a safe environment for learning and strong relationship skills.
Join us at Learning Forward Ontario’s one day institute in Stratford, Ontario on Monday, August 27th to consider these helping stances as they apply to both our own learning and learning within specific areas such as mathematics and literacy professional learning. Register at the following site: www.learningforwardontario.ca
My area of sustained interest is understanding the complexities of collaboration and their impact on learning in the classroom and in the workplace. The growing interest in pedagogies which promote an inquiry stance or more constructivist engagement also really resonates for me.