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September 02, 2008


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Daryl Cook

Nice post Amy. You and I are coming at this from a topic from a very similar angle, I guess largely because my own concept of facilitation is–as you so nicely put it–"largely based on self-awareness and cultivating a 'way of being'". Thank you.

Jeffrey Keefer

Amy, I think you are raising a number of challenging issues here regarding teaching and learning. I find that I facilitate a lot more than teach, and when people in my department speak about giving a lecture, I consider it as an opportunity to mention a few things from the reading and then discuss them rather than just talk at people.

However, a number of my students struggle with this; some because they want to be told what to think or what is important; some because they decide to do little work on their own since we are not focusing on content in our class sessions; and others seemingly because they do not know what to make of this form of learning and have trouble determining on their own how much they need to focus upon.

The biggest challenge I face in this area is determining how much "knowledge" or content I should convey because it is too obtuse or specialized vs. how much I can discern my students are ready for. From this perspective, discerning the line between teaching and facilitating is somewhat blurry for me and is a goal toward which I work.

Loretta Donovan

Amy, You are spot on as you focus on "creating space within which transformation can occur" as the key ingredient in facilitation and hosting. In my 2-day course on Appreciative Inquiry at Columbia University, many people - whether they are consultants, managers or graduate students - come to the class looking for out-of-the-box steps for "running an AI". Their thinking is shifted as they experience the spiritual and reflective environment which is at the heart of AI. It's not a tool that you can replicate step by step. It's honoring the beliefs that underlie the collaborative process that makes it so powerful in the hands of a master facilitator.

Loretta Donovan

Amy Lenzo

Wow! What juicy responses to this post! I apologize for having been out of the loop with a heavy work load followed by a vacation, both of which kept me from responding more promptly.

Daryl, thanks for your kind words and the recognition of similarity in our approach.

Loretta, it sounds like your course on AI is fabulous. You capture the essence of this more nuanced kind of facilitation in your comment about the "shift of thinking" that is necessary to be able to lead from one's own experience, rather than applying pre-determined rules.

Jeffrey, I appreciate the challenges you describe in workplace conditions that may not always be comfortable or conducive to your goals. Your courage in following your own sense of what's right is commendable, and for what it's worth I think your focus on conversation and dialogue is absolutely the most effective way to learn.

The trick here is probably in formulating your questions so that everyone feels able & drawn to participate. If you lay out the original material so that those who are ready to absorb it can, and then ask questions that will allow even those who didn't really understand it to join the conversation, then much of the "teaching" can be done in a peer-to-peer context that will ultimately be much more valuable to all concerned.

Thanks, all of you, for engaging in this conversation. It seems like an important one, given that we're all looking at how to be our best at "facilitating" what needs to emerge in our schools and in our world.

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