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Guiding and Assessing student facilitation

Hi all.

Can’t believe it, but my class is in week 8 of a 10 week quarter.  By now, each student has already done one facilitation day.  They are now in the middle of our ’round two’ facilitation.  The first time they facilitated, their goal was really to explore some topics from the chapter of the environmental communication textbook that was assigned for the day.  At noon on the day before they facilitate I required that they turn into me:

  • An agenda/overview of their 20 minute session
  • Specific concepts in the book and passages they would point the group to if needed (page numbers, etc.)
  • Two or three “question sets.”  Each question set consisted of what I called a “warm up question” (something easy to answer, perhaps asking group members to relate the concept to their own experience), a main question (open-ended, exploratory, nonjudgmental), and some potential follow-up questions.

I read and provided feedback to each facilitator before their session.  Then, after their facilitation the groups filled out feedback for the facilitator, same general questions that Keally described in her recent blog post, which I collated, copied, and provided to the facilitator.  One week after their facilitation they turned in a brief reflection paper describing their experience, their biggest challenge, their proudest moment, and how they will respond to their group-mates’ feedback for their second facilitation.  I am able to watch all of their group meetings, so I gave each facilitator some of my own feedback as well.

Their second round of facilitation is much more of a full IF process.  In a way, the first one was kind of a warm up. Now we’re in the middle of the group’s process where each member facilitates for a day (about 40 mins this time), there’s a note-taker, etc. and their group goal over the period of 4 weeks is to create a discussion guide on a local environmental issue.  They have chosen their issue and had exploratory discussions to “surround” it, have generated a bunch of possibilities, and are now trying to narrow down their possibilities so they can get more depth of understanding on those possibilities and their consequences. Each group has 7 students in it, and I have three groups in my class.  Each group is working independently.

The first round of facilitation was hugely helpful for the students, and having them turn in an agenda and preparatory materials has been great.  It gives me a chance to do one-on-one coaching with each facilitator *before* they actually are put in the hot seat, so to speak.  Many folks have been super thankful for my comments before they facilitate.  The groups have had some challenges with this second round: this is a much more difficult task to think through a problem and possibilities than it is to sit around and discuss things from the chapter. 🙂 But, they are pulling through it well.

I’m also experimenting with videotaping their meetings this time.  The sound quality is tricky since all three groups meet in the same classroom, but I’m hopeful that the videos will be helpful for students when they write their final reflection paper.  Since I’m teaching Communication Studies, having them closely analyze their own communication is totally fair game as a final paper.  I especially am asking them to talk about their “proudest moment” as a facilitator and hope that I’ll be able to see some video evidence of things they think they did well.  Hopefully this kind of appreciative inquiry will be a good learning opportunity for them as well.

Thanks again to Jack, Keally, Maria, and Pradip for thinking through the assessment questions this summer.  One thing we agreed on, that I was actually resistant to at first, was that the facilitation itself would be graded as credit/no credit (with the bar for credit set pretty high). In my class they are graded on their pre-meeting materials and their reflection piece, but unless they just totally blow off their role as a facilitator, they just get points for actually doing the facilitating. I like the fact that I can offer them critical feedback, and praise, on their facilitation performance without that being tied up too much with their grade.  I’ll definitely keep that aspect of this assignment in my future classes.