Strengthening Self-responsibility

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As facilitators, we have more situational power than the participants. We should use this power to respect participants' needs and to meet them eye-to-eye. Due to our goal of empowerment, it is logical to share as much power as possible. Therefore we see participants as partners. The facilitator's character in such a partnerhhip is less to serve but rather to collaborate, in example...

  • by letting participants be experts,
  • using their knowledge and skills as a shared resource.
  • adjusting subjects, methods of training, and the rhythm of working to the participants’ needs.
  • talking transparently about goals and plans
  • sharing tasks


[edit] Strengthening Self-responsibility

Shaping personalities and gaining key competencies implies a need for learning environments that allow participants to try things out. This new knowledge is acquired from observation, experimentation, and evaluation. In other words: democracy or personal responsibility can only be taught sustainably when they take place in this type of learning environment.

On a lot of levels in a learning event tasks might be shared and diversified between facilitators and participants:

  • evaluating learning goals and learning outcomes (i.e. daily evaluation groups, documentation)
  • adjusting program steps and activities (i.e. common planning)
  • participants try things out (i.e. (co-)moderation, presentation)
  • free time, social activities, party (i. e. building responsible teams for specific activities)
  • keeping the common leanring space in order (i.e. cleaning groups)
  • care about the well-being of the group (i. e. learning tandems)

[edit] Involving the participants' experience

Participants in trainings are often used to the kinds of formal teaching situations they experienced in schools or universities. These only allow limited space for participation and have a clear cognitive focus.

Such people may become irritated by a modern learning environment. They do not know what to expect and how to get involved. Therefore, this context and their need for validation should be reflected in the training design:

  • explaination, why a non-formal method was chosen, for which kind of goals.
  • Encourage Critical Evaluation about the choice
  • giving space for working in their style
  • discussing the preferred way of working

[edit] Consequences

Regarding the paradigm of transparency, trainers should express their expectations regarding the participants' performance. This might happen in the introduction.

One important topic is the rights and the duties of both participants and facilitators. When you wish to work in a facilitative way, you should be open towards your participants' needs.

[edit] Consensus

Beyond consequences, you basically need a consensus on various issues. Think of your program as a proposal, and your participants will appreciate your willingness to take them and their needs seriously. A program that seems relevant for all the participants facilitates acceptance of your work.

Beyond this agreement on the topics and what events should actually transpire, it is supportive to involve participants in ways that are not explicitly part of the program. As in democratic environments, involvement also implies a personal sense of responsibility. Instruments to shape this feeling of responsibility might include

  • They learn to give and receive constructive feedback
  • Participants choose the common rules: time management (i. e. when to start and to end), the didactic goals, group activities, and shared responsibilities.

[edit] Conflicts

Some participants initially think that the teachers are the main source of learning. This is a classic teacher-centered educational approach. In contrast, many educational activities, including those used at the [Theodor-Heuss-Kolleg] emphasize the resources and existing capacities of their participants. Learning takes place in the exchange between people, in the diverse perspectives of heterogeneous groups, in sharing good practice and life experiences.

A learner-centered approach makes these experiences and capacities explicit. This leads to increased learning potentials, but it can also lead to conflict. Conflicts' dramatic potential can be reduced by analysis and by supporting acceptance of both perspectives. On this basis, constructive work with conflicts can be grounding. In the best case, differences can stimulate new experience and knowledge. And taking conflicts seriously shows each participant that you treat their issues seriously. Therefore we do not recommend ignoring existing conflicts, but to find methods to work with them.

[edit] Participants in the center

The knowledge, needs, and learning styles of our participants are the main resources for their learning processes. We apply our methodological concepts and goals according to the specific participants. Our ideal is active participant that wants to gain new perspectives through activity and reflection.

This ideal implies facilitators that see themselves more as moderators or coaches than as teacher or experts (although they should have specific expertise).

Often the role of a facilitator changes during an program. At the beginning, they structure content and agenda more, while later on in the program they loosen up and give participants more opportunities for autonomy. Especially in group work participants might try out their moderating and presentation skills. And why not occasionally involve an expert among the participants as a co-facilitator? Whoever can contribute to reaching the program's goals should have the opportunity to do so.

[edit] Leading Participants

A facilitator has a specific task, often defined in a contract or mandated by the participants' application under certain conditions. Most generally, this duty is to help participants advance in learning and gaining competencies, step by step. With responsibility in mind, we lead through

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