Effective facilitation empowers adults to extract their own learning from and through their work.
Adults in work are likely to have a wealth of experience from which they have learned a great deal, but many lack a qualification to validate their learning objectively. Capable NZ, at Otago Polytechnic, began offering qualifications that recognised workplace learning using a traditional Recognition of Prior Learning model, but has evolved to provide a more versatile approach to merge experiential, professional and academic learning.
The role of the facilitator is critical to enable this learning, and to describe how this occurs Glenys Ker developed the Model of Effective Facilitation of Learning based on the experiences of Capable NZ learners. Now Glenys and Heather Carpenter have elaborated on how the four important principles are applied:
- Principle 1: Fit - there needs to be a close fit between learner and facilitator. Building a relationship is easier where there is an instant recognition of “things in common” – whether that be location, background interests or work roles. The facilitator also needs to have the self-awareness to identify if they are not the right person to support the learner.
- Principle 2: Relationship - the relationship between facilitator and learner needs to be bound by mutual respect, trust and empathy. The facilitator needs to listen attentively, be curious about the learner, and able to recognise personal nuances.
- Principle 3: Skills, Knowledge, Attitudes - the facilitator needs to have the capabilities for the role. As well as personal skills and attributes and subject matter knowledge, the facilitator needs a sound knowledge of adult learning theories and experiential learning. Helping learners to develop their reflective capabilities is critical, and of course requires the facilitator to be reflective too.
- Principle 4: Learners First - facilitators need to be responsive, available, willing to meet the learners' needs and to act in the interests of the learner. The effective facilitator is willing to work flexibly and to be available to engage with learners within the parameters of their work and life constraints.
An effective facilitator encourages autonomous, self-directed learning, empowering the learner to take control of their own learning as much as they can and to formulate their experience to meet academic criteria. In future it is likely that learning will increasingly occur in the workplace, and teaching will therefore be less about passing on the knowledge and skills of the teacher and more about helping people extract their own work-based learning.