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Master Facilitator Journal

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0382, Feb 24, 2009

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In most facilitated events, I love to have a co-facilitator to work with. I've learned a great deal by not only observing the styles of other facilitators, but also having the opportunity to debreif with one another after an event to give and receive feedback the other's work.

While co-facilitation brings many advantagese, there are some things to look out for when working with others in this capacity. In this week's article,
The Opportunities and Challenges of Co-Facilitation we explore the beneifts and challenges of working on facilitation teams.

Thursday, March 12th, we interview, Michael Grinder author of The Illusive Obvious, on the fine points of non-verbal communication. Click here for further info and registration.

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facilitator questions

The Point

The Opportunities and Challenges of Co-Facilitation
Know the benefits and challenges of facilitation teams.

Relating Skill

In many situations, two heads are better than one. When it comes to presenting a workshop it is often much easier on everyone if there is more than one person who is “leading” the group. Here are several ways in which co-facilitation can benefit both the facilitators and the group.

Capitalize on Strengths
Co-facilitation allows one person to present while the other person observes and supports his or her partner. Partners can divide the material in a way that lets them capitalize on their individual strengths and have their own moment in the spotlight.

Preserve Energy
Presenting can be tiring both for facilitators and the participants. Co-facilitators provide diversity in voices, presentation styles and energy levels. Co-facilitation helps to hold the attention of the group, while giving each facilitator time to shine and time to rest.

Maximize Diverse Resources
No one, no matter how well educated or skilled, has a talent for or knows about everything. Working as a team allows each person to contribute the best of his or her gifts, talents and resources.

Extra Eyes, Ears and Hands
Two facilitators can manage a group better than one. The second person can help gauge participants’ reactions and notice whether people seem to understand the material. The co-facilitation can also help hand out materials and can assist in monitoring discussions when participants have been separated into small groups. Finally, a co-facilitator can also handle problems with the physical environment, latecomers and phone calls.

Everyone can have an “off” day when nothing works well: perhaps an activity did not go as planned, or maybe you lose your place in a lecture. The co-facilitator is there to help smooth over those moments, Co-facilitators; behavior towards one another - being supportive and respectful – serves as a model for the way participants can behave towards each other.

Adapted from: Youth Net The Training of Training Manuals: Participant Handouts


Working effectively with another facilitator doesn't always just happen naturally. Here are some tips to take into account with working with facilitation parnters.

Before the Workshop
  • Schedule ample time for planning and getting to know each other.
  • Discuss each other’s style of planning and facilitating.
  • Avoid making assumptions about one another.
  • Take time to discuss your views about the workshop topic.
  • Especially examine areas of disagreement.
  • Discuss any concerns about potential challenges that participants may present.
  • Agree on common goals for workshop.
  • Review each other’s triggers.
  • Find out whether and when it is okay to interrupt.
  • Decide how to keep track of time.
  • Strategize about how to stick to the original outline and how to switch gears.
  • Plan ways to give signals to one another.
  • Divide facilitation of activities fairly.
  • Share responsibility equally in preparing and bringing workshop materials and resources.
  • Agree to arrive at the workshop site in time to set up and check-in before the workshop begins.
  • Schedule time after the workshop to debrief.
During the Workshop
  • Keep communicating with each other throughout the workshop.
  • Support and validate one another.
  • During activities that don’t require constant attention, check-in with one another.
  • Include your co-facilitator even when you are leading an exercise or discussion, by asking, for example: “Do you have anything to add?”
  • Use lots of eye contact.
  • Assert yourself if your co-facilitator is talking too much.
  • Remember that it is okay to make mistakes.
  • Take the initiative to step in if your co-facilitator misses an opportunity to address something.

After the Workshop

  • If you can’t meet right after the workshop, schedule a time to debrief before you leave.
  • Listen carefully to one another’s self-evaluation before giving feedback.
  • Discuss what worked well.
  • Examine what did not work.
  • Brainstorm what could have been done differently.
  • Use written evaluations as a reference point to talk about the workshop, and assess your effectiveness as co-facilitators.
  • Name particular behaviors, for example: “When you kept interrupting me, I felt undermined and frustrated”, or “I got the impression that some participants were bored”, instead of “You always interrupt me” or “You were very controlling during the workshop.”
  • Realize the importance and potential difficulty of debriefing a challenging workshop.
  • Make sure to share any clean-up or return of resource materials.

What has your experience been co-facilitating groups? Are there any tips you might add to this list? I'd love to hear from you. Send me your experiences and ideas by replying to this email.

This Week's Offer

Facilitator's Questions Collection

This 35-page collection contains 20 sets of questions grouped according to the many themes upon which groups typically focus.

Use these lists in preparation for working with a group or use them as catalysts for the development of your own questions. You can put this practical guide to use right away with your groups without hours of study and contemplation.

This question collection can travel anywhere, from the classroom to the boardroom. Its templates are adaptable to your unique area of work; just be a little creative and the question will happen for your context. The Facilitator Questions Collection has become a desktop reference for me in both my writing and behavioral coaching work.

These questions support and instruct the facilitator as well, because so many of them are thought provoking, inviting the facilitator to pause and think about the possibilities in a given question. These menus of questions underscore that people learn differently, hence they are designed to tap into various learning styles to help people access their intelligence and draw out their best.
Ellen Mossman-Glazer M.Ed., Life Skills Coach and Behavior Specialist--

Table of Contents


Types Of Questions

Six Serving Men: Open-Ended Questions
Bloom's Taxonomy
Five Types of Questions

Focusing Questions
Questions to Clarify Group Understanding
Questions to Facilitate Commitment
Questions to Scope a Project
Problem-Solving Questions
Data Gathering Questions
Questions to clarify and focus on the problem
Organizational/Process Questions.
Decision-Making Questions
Questions to Assess Solutions
Questions to Stimulate Creative Thinking
Planning Questions
Questions to Facilitate Change
Questions to Evaluate Results
Questions To Improve Teamwork
Questions to Facilitate Participation
Questions to Identify Group Dysfunction
Debriefing Questions
Metaphor-Making Questions
Intervention Questions
Debriefing a Traumatic Situation
Questions to ask Yourself to Form Better Questions
Questions to Improve Your Facilitation Skills

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