Stage 2: Facilitation

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Juliet talks in this video about the principles and practice of facilitation in a words for wellbeing session.

The second part of this video focuses on benefits and challenges of online facilitation.

1. Facilitation

Remind people of what they have been reading. If it is a poem or short excerpt, you might take a few minutes to read it aloud.

Initiate the discussion with open questions such as:

  • What did you connect with in this poem/story?
  • What thoughts and feelings came to you as you read it?
  • Were there any passages that stood out to you? Why?
2. Use active listening, responding and questioning techniques.

Use these methods to help people to surface insights:

  • ATTEND - Keep Quiet, Look, Listen, Be Present
  • ACKNOWLEDGE OTHERS - Fred is speaking, let’s listen.
  • ASK more open questions : ‘’What does this passage mean to you?’ ‘ How did you feel after reading this passage?’ How did you react to this character’s choices?’
  • ASK probing questions to help elaborate or further expand: “Why do you think it is important that the poem/story  leaves us with unanswered questions?”  “Were  there aspects of what you read that seemed relevant to your own situation just now?”
  • CONNECT - Invite participants to share their views and feelings in response to what others have said or to ask questions of the speaker. Highlight common themes in what people are sharing about their responses to the poem or story.
  • CHALLENGE – Is there another way to interpret this passage?
  • INVITE AND INVOLVE participants to share information, offer their reactions to what has been said: ‘Did others have a similar response to this passage to Fred?’
  • SUMMARISE and PARAPHRASE to ensure accuracy and shared meaning
3. Workbook exercise (6)

Workbook Workbook Exercise

Workbook exercise (6)
  • Choose three of the facilitation techniques that Juliet mentions in the two videos in this section.
  • For each technique describe a time when you either used this technique as a facilitator OR experienced this technique as a participant in a group session.
  • What worked well on each occasion?  With hindsight, what do you think could have been improved?
4. Group facilitation

A successful facilitated group session is likely to have some of the following features:

  • Everyone participates in their own way
  • Conversation moves – no one person dominates. Quiet people are invited to speak; talkative ones are asked to give others space
  • Encouragement and support are evident
  • A range of emotions is allowed and encouraged
  • Participants take risks, i.e. they are willing to talk about difficult issues.


5. Managing issues with group participation

Refer to Module 6 for guidance on managing difficult situations, including challenging behaviour and people who are distressed.

Balancing the discussion

An important aspect of group facilitation is balancing the discussion so that:

  • Each participant has the opportunity to participate.
  • The behaviour of one or more individuals does not adversely affect others – for example, dominating time, putting others down, distracting from the group purpose.

You may find it useful to include the importance of balancing participants’ needs in the terms of engagement or ground rules for the group.  For example, you might include a commitment ‘Enable everyone to participate.’

Then you can refer to these ground rules when necessary – for example:  “Tom, I’m going to interrupt here and thank you for sharing that with us. We said in our ground rules that we would enable everyone to participate. In the interests of time, I’d like to ask others to share their thoughts now.’

Focus your efforts on the passive majority - encouraging them to participate more, rather than simply asking the dominant person to change their behaviour.   Trying to change the dominant person may just result in more attention being focused on that individual. 

Remember that a kind and caring person can dominate a group just as much as an opinionated or negative person.  The key thing is to ensure a balance that enables everyone to participate.

The group becomes distracted and loses focus.

In this situation, it is a good idea to aim for a break as soon as possible. People are likely to have lost focus because they are overloaded or worn out. After a break, they will be able to focus much better.

Low participation by the whole group

Low participation can often be due to anxiety and shyness or to people feeling insecure. Try moving from large group open discussion to smaller group activities or to listing ideas.

Two people start arguing with each other

Turn the focus of attention to other  people in the group by asking, “Who else has an opinion on this issue?” or “Let’s  step back for a minute and look at other issues that need to be discussed.” 

One or two people are silent in the group

Try encouraging contribution without putting  individuals on the spot. For example,  “I’d like to
get views from people who haven't spoken yet."  Another option is to break into smaller groups so that it is easier for quieter people to speak out without competing with many more vocal participants.  In an online environment, you can encourage use of Chat for quiet people to put their views forward. Then you can acknowledge the points they have made and put them forward for further discussion. 

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