Co-facilitation: Top 5 Things to Remember When You Co-Facilitate a Session

CO.. (collaborate, co-create, cooperate)

Ever worked in a matrix organization? No, it’s not like in that movie.  You report to your day-t0-day operations type managers and you also report to your project-based managers. It is beneficial organizationally because your development as an individual contributor is heightened with perspectives of how you work and your value-add by more than just one manager. The more projects you engage in and the more people you work with, the more you’ve exposed your work ethic to those individuals and ultimately the better it is for you and your career. From the people manager’s point of view, they need to collaborate with the project managers to ensure that they are working together to provide the necessary coaching, tools, and opportunities and they compliment each other to support you career progression in the organization. This fundamentally is what collaborative management is about. Two or more managers supporting, coaching, guiding, developing common team members together.

Much like in collaborative management, my top five things to remember when co-facilitating are:

1. TRUST that the other facilitator has the same intentions you do.  Like in collaborative management, trust that the other manager has clear, positive, good intentions for your people. Create a system of codes so that each one knows when the other transitions and after a couple of times, you will know when the other has something to add automatically. Online co-facilitation means using a private chat room or if you have webcams, the other facilitator can see a visual cue from you. I’ve seen lots of co-facilitators use nodding, an open hand gesture as if offering the ‘floor” to the other person, even an ear tug ala Carol Burnett or a touch of an eyebrow like a baseball signal. No I’ve not used that one yet. With open communication and by working as a unit, self-discipline, self-regulate, and self-motivate occurs.

2. SHARE RESPONSIBILITY by getting to know each other, your strengths and leverage that when it comes to managing your common team members. Same with co-facilitation. 50-50 split IT IS NOT. You deliver the material that is your strength first if its your first time and then stretch to practice on the other pieces next time. The beauty about the shared approach is ability to self-care as well – example: when you have to have a break for any reason, the class doesn’t have to stop. Of course you have to be mindful of appropriate break times for your students. In your preparation, you can discuss how you manage your classroom and different learner styles and even potential learner challenges. This way you don’t get caught in a “you do it” finger pointing. Online, I’ve worked with co-facilitators where not only do we switch between responding to learner questions in the chat room while the other facilitates the session but also crowd management. We’ve had classes with up to 80+ students with two people monitoring the virtual classroom dashboard while one of us three facilitates.  The way we’ve managed this is clear roles and responsibilities and know when we transition between roles.

3. CO-CREATE how you’re putting the materials together and how you’re going to disseminate the information together.  This is where you can create an agenda, formulate questions, determine appropriate measurements of knowledge transfer, etc. — activities you would do as an instructional designer or as a facilitator prepping for a class. Same activities but this time you are developing your teaching plan with someone else. In respecting each other’s ideas, though polar opposites, you can have valuable impact to your learners since I believe that at the end of the day, everyone wants to do a good job. The constitution of your combined work will incorporate diverse views, skills, experiences that will only enhance your end product. There’s a list of questions from the Ontario Health Promotion eBulletin that may assist in this process, if it’s your first time in doing this.  I’ve taught bootcamp type classes where it’s 16 hour days for 5.5 days and it can exhaust you. Having co-facilitators assisted in getting me through the class. It has also assisted in changing the classroom landscape, provided a variety of teaching styles which kept our learner engagement high, and overall created a wider breath of expertise in the room.

4. PRACTICE. This is a must. Much like solo facilitation, you become an expert, and your particular facilitation technique becomes second nature, by practicing. It’s ok if you stumble, dust yourself off, and go at it again… and again…and again. It’s like riding a bike or driving or playing the latest Avengers XBox game. Now part of practice is a good DEBRIEF. This will assist all facilitators to provide feedback and course-correct if needed. Debrief as often as you think is needed – every break  or at the end of each day or multiple times during the day. I would debrief more often with a co-facilitator I’ve not worked with before to ensure we’re hitting our planned milestones in class.  In collaborative management, our ability to debrief how we’ve performed as co-managers provides us a mechanism to be better people managers the next time around. The challenge is when you don’t have the ability for that second chance or work in an environment that doesn’t allow for mistakes.. but we’ll tackle the approach to that in another post. For now, focus on getting better through the practice-debrief-practice model until you can course-correct midstream while in lecture mode (an example of how we’ll you’ve become attuned with your co-facilitators).

5. BE A ROLE MODEL of the behaviors you expect your students to perform when they walk away from your class. Whether you like it or not, your attitude, belief, and behavior towards a skill, knowledge, or approach to a particular product or service that you are facilitating or teaching translates holistically to your students. If you are passionate about a product, this will show in the words and body language you use when you facilitate. Even if you facilitate online, the emoticons, the exclamation points, your caps lock, and sentence construction — all showcases your “online body language” to your students. Like any people manager, the role comes responsibilities. What happens when things go wrong? Talk. Maybe compromise. Talk some more. Be open to other people’s views. I’ve worked with a vendor instructional designer who swears I’ve taught a module incorrectly though I’ve taught a similar class quite successfully with similar class circumstances. By being open to suggestions, we’ve come up with a system where feedback and a different approach (maybe using a different example, extending discussions on a particular topic, enhancing dialogue by bringing in more speakers) provided a higher level of learning that would not have happened if I was stubborn to just not budge. There’s always room to make things shine brighter.

Enjoy the videos I found on a bad example of co-facilitation and a good example. Yes, I know about the “enjoy’s each other’s company” comment and there are those of you who would say “what if I don’t like who I am paired with?” My answer? See a future post on how to address this. Good luck, enjoy the process, post your additional input, suggestion, and your approach when you co-facilitate below.


2 comments to Co-Facilitation is like Collaborative Management : Top 5 Things to Remember

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