The facilitators role in a learning journey

Support them through their learning journey, not just their training journey

Whilst a learning journey is very much the preserve of the individual, we’ll explore here the perspective of the facilitator/trainer/coach. The person who has a role to play in nudging and encouraging that individual to lean into learning and to support them with the challenge and discomfort that naturally comes with significant behavioural change.


We are learning all the time. The research into the brains capacity is truly staggering and thankfully much of that learning can happen sub-consciously, protecting our energy levels and allowing us to focus on the here and now and what is directly in front of us. As facilitators, the learning an individual embarks upon with us tends to be at a more conscious level. But that doesn’t mean they are only learning when they are with you. Far from it. In essence, the learning journey encompasses:


“The changes an individual experiences from the moment they are aware they are consciously learning to the point where they are no longer consciously practicing, reflecting and striving to improve in that specific area of performance.”


Like many things in life, the starting point is oh so crucial. And that starting point is not when they walk into the training room or join you on the zoom. Not when the “training programme” starts. The starting point is the very moment they become aware the learning journey is open to them. They may be told they are going on it, may have asked, may have applied, whatever the starting point this is the beginning of their learning journey. This is where the facilitator needs to be involved and where so many good foundations for the journey can be laid. Often much of the facilitator’s role is at the group level but this starting point is individual and whilst it doesn’t need to be labelled as this, is essentially a coaching process. We know that successful navigation of a learning journey is only possible when the individual:


·      takes responsibility for their learning,

·      is committed to actively learning (regular practice and reflection),

·      is motivated by the performance changes they are aiming for

·      is self-aware of the scale of the individual journey they need to go on.


Working with each individual at the very beginning of their journey so that level of responsibility, commitment, motivation and awareness is established is worth it weight in gold for the ensuing journey!


With these great foundations laid are we ready to launch into “Module 1”? Nope. Wherever possible (and this clearly depends on many factors) the next step is “practice”. There is nothing like deliberate practice to give an individual that clear, objective base line in terms of what they need to learn to achieve their goals. Like when we learn to drive. It is only when we sit in that driving seat and start to try and combine pedal control, use of mirrors, changing of gears AND looking where we are going that we realise just how much we need to master! Watching a video or observing a parent driving does not give the same level of acute awareness of just how uncomfortable high-quality learning can be.


Whilst these starting points are by nature very individual, we also want to harness the power of the group at this early stage (and yes, before module 1!) Fostering community in the group is not something we want to leave to chance or as a slow burn through the live sessions you may run. From the outset, the group can provide so much rich learning opportunity but to do this they need to bond like a high performing team. They need trust in each other so they can experience learning without judgment, they need to challenge each other with high quality feedback and accountability, they need to work together unprompted by you towards their goals. The earlier you help build this type of learning community the earlier they reap the benefits.


Only with these foundations in place can we then focus on designing experiences to support them individually and collectively as they navigate their journey. Clearly this s context driven but there are certain elements that will help that journey have the impact required:


·      Blend of numbers: some group, some self-directed, some smaller groups or pairs.

·      Blend of mediums: video, reading, creating, debating and so on.

·      Blend of environments: virtual, in-person, in work, out of work, inside, outside.

·      Blend of experiences: project work, coaching, mentoring, activities, research, games.

·      With lots of deliberate practice woven around individual and group reflection.


And remember this is an individual journey. So creating enough that whilst a group may progress through the programme, there is scope for each individual to navigate their own path, choosing the elements that are most likely to support them in achieving the performance levels they are targeting.


As the journey progresses, we need to shift the relationship from that of guide and facilitator to invested observer. A little like that moment when teaching a child to ride a bike, the stabilisers are off and they are pedaling along without even realising that you have taken your hand off the seat. But you are still there to offer feedback, coaching and nudges as they transfer their learning permanently to the real world of their role. This means more and more activities without you heavily involved, more peer to peer feedback, more learner curated content, with deliberate practice and reflection as part of performing every day.


From this shift you’ll see the habits forming, the competence and confidence growing, new behaviours and skills are delivering the intended performance outcomes and you’ll know, instinctively, that you can step back. Their learning of course will never stop, but the need for the facilitator in this particular journey is no longer required.


In summary, imagine you are embarking on a Round the World journey. Your itinerary of 10 destinations is like a traditional Training programme. Whereas a learning  journey is much more like the deep, ongoing and rich experiences from a year of travelling.

As a facilitator, which do you want to be involved in?

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