The relevance of Learning Science to education is being recognized and accepted by all the involved parties in learning. Be it it digital learning, conventional learning, formal learning or continuing learning, the value that understanding of learning science brings to learning is exponential. Without getting into the concepts and theories of the science, I distill 10 simple ideas that a facilitator can use to make their facilitation more productive. your views and thoughts are most welcome.
It is important for any facilitator to pay special attention to (and build a good understanding of) learning science. Learning science is an interdisciplinary field devoted to better understanding how learning happens and then applying that understanding to creating and improving learning design, methods, structure, platform, and any other aspects of learning.
While we look at the challenges and limitation around the policy, infrastructure and host of other aspects that impact education, we tend to ignore the simple yet effective points that a learning facilitator can adopt to make better impact at the most important level – where the learner meets the learning.
Let get to the 10 facilitator tips drawn from the learning science that could help making the process of facilitation more productive.
1. Gain attention – whatever be the subject and approach, to facilitate any learning, gaining attention of the audience is critical. The best place to start this is to get a learner perspective to the learning outcomes. It is important to remember that it is they who need to learn, and it will happen only when the process keeps them in the fore.
2. Inform – the next important part is to tell crisply and clearly what the objective and outcome is. Intended learning outcomes that define what a learner will acquire and able to do upon successful completion. Making sure that these are relevant, and they will lead to better performance will set the process in motion well.
3. Stimulate recall – At the start, a topic is better appreciated if the learner can recall each piece of information that would be useful to learn about the current topic. The learning design with links between items to make this recall faster enables better engagement and effective progress.
4. Engage with your content – just narrating or even presenting the content can be boring and gloomy. Take the note from the engaging narrative approaches that entertainment video uses. One doesn’t need to dilute the content but spend time to understand the aspects of the content that would elicit curiosity and motivations to consume.
5. Be mindful of memory expectations –the fact that the learner needs to be able to hold few key ideas in their active memory to process even mildly complex ideas and retain key outcomes in their long-term memory. One of the key triggers for disengagement is putting heavy demand on the learners’ memory.
6. Provide mentoring– and be innovative in giving them. Normative or prescriptive guides are known to elicit negative responses, especially in young learners. Instead use questions and illustrations to help the learner create their own guides. Top it with some good practices that make the concept easily usable.
7. Ensure progress – and keep a progress mindset as it would keep the focus of the learners in attaining the outcomes and goals. The aspect of progress includes completion of the components, participating and contributing to the activities and adherence to the prescribed timelines. Incentives, value propositions and continuing relevance of the outcomes are known to ensure progress.
8. Elicit performance – and be mindful that it is a continuous process and needs to be addressed as a constant in the session. While preparing for a session, it is important to keep asking the performance question. The idea of performance easily links to the higher order thinking components in the blooms taxonomy.
9. Provide feedback – that are constructive and insightful for the learners as it offers three critical assurances – engagement, alignment and goals attainment. Besides the basic ideas of timely, specific, honest and mindful; the feedback should be about the future, the process (or approach) and actionable.
10. Assure learning – which translates to demonstrating, through multiple processes, that learners achieve what they expected by completing all the components of the program is the true culmination of any learning engagement. This needs to get into more innovative assessment and go into the domain of learner’s free expression of their achieving their bigger goals.
While most facilitators would be following/practicing some of the points shared above, it is important to take a moment and reflect upon these as a mindset. The ideas of gaining attention, stimulating recall, engaging content, memory limitations, mentoring, ensuring progress and performance and assuring learning combine to create a two way imperative for a facilitator. Remember – teaching is the best way to learn, but facilitating your own learning, goes a step beyond this adage. To be an effective facilitator, one truly needs to be an effective learner.