So, this week I am going to look briefly at different facilitation styles. There are various models that look at facilitation styles and leadership styles, which can also be relevant when delivering training. One model or theory that I am very familiar with is John Heron’s three modes of facilitation. The three modes he identified were:

  • Hierarchical – where you as a learner are essentially leading the group of learners. You will be telling them the information they need, instructing them when to do things and the communication is very much one way.
  • Co-operative – where the learners are involved more actively in the learning process. They are taking part in discussions and perhaps suggesting ideas and alternative ways of approaching things. The communication has become a two way dialogue.
  • Autonomous – where the learners are left to get on with it. They are engaged in an activity which doesn’t need your input as a trainer.

There are other models of facilitation styles that use different names for the different styles or modes but fit a similar pattern. Some theories list up to ten leadership styles. Some titles of styles which you may be familiar with are:

  • Authoritarian – similar to Heron’s Hierarchical
  • Democratic – Co-operative
  • Laissez-faire – which could be seen as the approach that needs to be taken if the group are working autonomously. This style is often portrayed in a negative way saying it’s taken by someone who doesn’t want to lead a group but I think it can also be said that it’s taken if someone doesn’t need to lead the group.

As a facilitator you need to be aware of which mode is the right one to be in at the time. This may be linked to the type of activity you are using in your training or the type of information you need to get across. If you’re asking the group to have a discussion about how they feel about a certain subject or to write down what they know about something then they don’t need your involvement then. They are autonomous. If you need to make sure the group know specific facts about a new law that affects their job role, there is no discussion there. You need to present the facts to them, you need to operate in the hierarchical mode. You may well then, to ensure they have taken on board all the information, move to a democratic or co-operative way of working to have a discussion and ask them questions to test their new knowledge and encourage them to ask you questions so they can clarify their learning.

Facilitation styles can also change depending on which stage of learning the learners are at or based on where the group are in the life of a group. I will look at both of these in more detail in my Training Tips Thursday post next week.

Next Week

The stages of learning and group life.