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  Skill of the Week

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0117 | September 9, 2003 | 9,000 Subscribers

Intro to Appreciative Inquiry. New 4-week Teleclass Starts Oct 7th at 2PM EDT. Click here for info.

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picture of Steve Davis, editor of the Master Facilitator Journal.From the Publisher: 

Dear friends,

This week, my dear friends, Susan Smith and Darlene Stein, have submitted an article on online learning facilitation. In "Never Say Never," they explore how this virtual environment, that we previously thought of as cold and impersonal, is actually stimulating a more "facilitative" approach to teaching and learning. They also include a great list of tips for online facilitators.

We've announced another offering of our "Appreciative Inquiry " Teleclass to run October 7th through October 28th, at 2 PM EST. Further info and registration details are at the end of this issue.

We're also excited that we are now ready to begin recruiting faculty for FacilitatorU.com teleclasses! Please see the announcement below and follow instructions on how to apply.

If any of you have had interesting experiences with groups as either a participant or as a facilitator, please tell us about it. We may invite you to interview with us to highlight your story as a case study for a future issue.

Thanks for your support!
Steve Davis


GAME Skill

Never Say Never
Musings of online learning facilitation.

The Point

I laugh to myself every time I recall when, in the mid-'90's, three of we Learning Facilitators from the Master Worker Project, had an important meeting with our College District Chancellor and he asked us, "Have you thought about putting this innovative project Online?" We all had to hurry out of the meeting to burst into laughter in the hallway.

How could a Chancellor be so out of touch? After all, this was a personal development course where we looked everyone in the eye, felt their pulse and carefully choreographed exercises for them to learn more about themselves. He simply didn't get it….that is…the delicacy and intimacy of the facilitated learning process.

We had presented at state and national conferences. We had made a mission out of mentoring and encouraging professors and teachers to move off center stage to facilitate a learning process as guides on the side…not just open up the head and pour the facts in. There was no way that this type of special learning could be done in a virtual nvironment.

Lo and behold, less than 8 years later, one of us facilitates personal development courses online for the college, another has developed the online Master Facilitator Journal and is in the process of developing FacilitatorU with both telecourses and online communication and resources, and another facilitates both online and assists with telecourses and the journal.

Something happened again this morning that caused me to pause and think about this whole concept of online facilitation. When my son comes home to visit, he heads immediately for my computer. Right now he is taking a series of courses to obtain an online college teaching certificate. As I walked by him, I noticed that he was on the class discussion board and his communiqué from his instructor ended with Pam Jones, course facilitator. Facilitator?!! I'm so impressed. After all the years of trying to encourage and mentor professors to look at facilitation as an adjunct to teaching, this online professor sees herself more as a facilitator than a teacher, a professor, or a lecturer. So I researched a bit further and found out that "facilitator" is now an accepted term for the online venue and that they really do see themselves as guides in the learning process. Hallelujah! We have come a long way and the role of facilitation is seen as an important one in all areas of education.

So to come full circle, computer technology that we once felt was so awkward and unfriendly has become an enabler of facilitated learning, a teaching perspective we had been preaching in the classroom for years. Ironic, isn't it?



Tips for effective online learning facilitation.

1. When discussing a topic it is better to pose a question than try to give an answer. Even adding "what do you think?" is better than no question at all.

2. Set rules about no "flaming" or guidelines for disagreement.

3. Answer promptly as time can let a thought 'die'. This is difficult at times but daily attention to discussion makes a big difference.

4. Use some way to distinguish humor like *smile*, ^grin^, <g>, or a :).
It helps the reader know how a comment was meant. Without hearing speaking inflection it's sometimes hard to read between the lines!

5. Reread what you write before you "send" it as some things can be easily misinterpreted.

6. Lead people to expand on their thoughts. Sometimes people are on the edge of a thought that could change their thinking and a well thought out question can lead them to the next step.

7. Don't be afraid to read emotions into what is said online. "Am I wrong or do I read that you are feeling sad about this situation? Do I detect some resistance to that idea? Would you be able to suspend judgement until you read blah blah blah and then we can continue the discussion?"

8. Take sensitive subjects or feelings to a private discussion or invite a phone call.

9. Try experiential learning activities online. They have as much impact as doing them in person.

10. Refer one person to another's comment on the discussion to encourage the facilitator OUT of the discussion. Students don't always read everything so pairing up ideas you find with several students can further their thinking.

11. As a facilitation tool I ask them for self evaluations on each paper they turn in. It tells me what they think about themselves and their abilities and guides me in the way I respond. Some think they are much better students than they are and I try and give them concrete things they are missing in their papers. Other students consistently under rate themselves but do good work. For them I try and give more encouragement than normal by pointing out the successes in their assignments and discussion.

About the authors: Susan J. Smith is a facilitator, consultant, and a former community college administrator. She has a special knack of delivering hope and inspiration wherever she goes. Darlene Stein is a online learning facilitator and licensed social worker. She transforms every group she sets her real and "virtual" foot in. Please thank them for this week's article.


If you haven't experienced taking a personal development course online, give it a try or maybe you would like to research the possibility of facilitating a course online. If you do, we encourage you to use as many of your facilitation skills as possible. Many colleges throughout the world offer online programs. You might start with cconline.cerrocoso.edu. Please email us your comments.

FacilitatorU Looking for Faculty

We are currently looking for additional faculty to lead teleclasses on subjects of interest to group workers. If you have an idea for a teleclass, click here to email us and you'll receive our Teleclass Design Guide in a few minutes. Please complete it and email it back to us. We'll consider your class in our future offerings.


About the Publisher
Steve Davis is "The Facilitator's Coach," helping leaders enhance their effectiveness through the application and perspective of facilitation. Please email or call me at 805-489-4130 to schedule a Free exploratory session, or to share your suggestions and ideas for the journal. I'd love to hear from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. Thanks for reading!

In the Spotlight
A Provocative Proposal for Unleashing the Power of What Works...

Join us for this 4-week TeleClass with AI experts, Patricia Clason and Bert Stitt starting October 7th, 2:00 - 3:00 PM EDT


This four session series on Appreciative Inquiry, is a facilitation strategy for intentional change that identifies the best of "what is" in order to pursue dreams and possibilities of "what could be." Within these classes we will explore the four dynamics of AI: Discovery, Dream, Design and Delivery. Plan to bring with you the challenges you have encountered or are experiencing in the group/organizational change process. These one-hour sessions will be interactive and we will encourage discussion of specific situations in which Appreciate Inquiry might be applied.

The Eight Assumptions of Appreciative Inquiry, Tuesday, October 7th

Explore the nature of assumptions in an organization/group. We will define and discuss the base assumptions of AI, how they affect the change process and how we may have experienced them already in our facilitation practice.

The Six Core Principles of Appreciative Inquiry, Tuesday, October 14th

Understanding the DNA of Appreciative Inquiry gives us a foundation upon which we can build the infrastructure of a change process that works.

The Five Steps to Appreciative Inquiry, Tuesday, October 21st

From designing an appreciative question to creating a provocative proposal and manifesting a destiny, each step is crucial to the process of Appreciative Inquiry. We get to incorporate the "buzzwords" of the last decade, Innovation, Empowerment, Continuous Leaning, Partnership, and Making A Difference, into a process of change that is FUN! Imagine the possibilities!

Outcomes and Opportunities (one month after the first three classes), Tuesday, October 28th

This session will be a celebration of learning about what worked and what didn't work for class participants as they applied the concepts of AI in their practice with clients and organizations, as well as discussion on further opportunities for implementing and integrating Appreciative Inquiry.

Also included with your training...
In addition to the 4-Week training described above, you also receive:

1. Free access to the RealAudio version of this training.
2. A Bibliography of leading works on AI.
3. A number of web resources to support your work in this field.
4. Summary notes of each class session.
5. List of class participants.

Benefits to you of participating 4-Week Training...
1. Get a great introduction to the concept and practice of Appreciative Inquiry to add to your toolbox as a facilitator, team leader, coach, or leader.
2. Learn to employ a change process that works.
3. Learn how to come from a positive, "what works" perspective when working with individuals and groups.

Click here to register now!

Leader Bios

Bert Stitt operates a home-based consultancy from Madison, Wisconsin. He provides facilitation services, public engagement consultation, and organizational development for community-building projects, coaching for non-governmental organizations, mediation and facilitation for governmental agencies, and strategic planning processes for associations, foundations, and small businesses. Appreciative Inquiry is a relatively recent tool that Bert is finding very useful as he reaches into the toolbox while helping to build the organizations he works with.

Patricia Clason has traveled across the continent doing speeches, workshops and media appearances as a professional speaker, trainer, consultant and writer, giving over 3,000 presentations for corporations, associations, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Now the Director of the Center for Creative Learning which offers programs for personal and professional development and has written many articles, training programs and personal growth seminars and is a sought-after guest for radio and television. Patricia likes to focus on alternative methods of teaching and learning, addressing the psychological perspectives and principles behind the practical tools that she teaches. As a result, audiences are often entranced with her and excited about using these new ideas.

Course Fee and Registration.
The full cost of training is only $64.95 for MFJ readers ($79.95 for the general public). Everything you read about above is included. And, we offer a 100%-satisfaction-guaranteed guarantee. The class will meet for one hour on the following four Tuesdays at 2:00 PM EDT (NY Time), October 7th, October 14th, October 21st, and October 28th.

Please click here and you'll be taken to the teleclass registration page. Register there and you'll see your discount computed and applied as you check out. Immediately upon completion of your registration, you will receive an email with instructions to access the course
. This course is limited to 20 individuals, first come, first served.

About the satisfaction guarantee
If, for any reason, you are not satisfied with this course, simply email us with a request to refund/credit your credit card in the full amount and we will do so immediately. It's our policy to do this and we honor this in every single case. (Why? Because we are sensitive to the fact that you are buying an e-course/product from us and we feel that if this package isn't EXACTLY what you expected or wanted, that you should be able to get 100% of your money back. This policy completely removes the buying risk for you and keeps our customer-satisfaction rates extremely high.)

Click here to register now!


Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal. Look for your next issue on September 16, 2003.


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