The CommonAction Principles of Learning

“I do not teach anyone, 
I only provide the environment in which they can learn.” 
— Albert Einstein

This is me facilitating in Seattle in 2009.
At CommonAction Consulting, we strive to create learning environments in all of our knowledge and skill-building activities. Over the last year we have facilitated learning for more than 4,500 children, youth, and adults in a variety of settings across the nation.
Each time we have led these activities, we have kept the CommonAction Principles of Learning in mind. Each of our trainers, facilitators, and consultants commit to upholding these principles, and I’m glad to share them here publicly at the request of a past workshop participant.

The CommonAction Principles of Learning

  • Be a Facilitator- Not a Teacher, Speaker, or Preacher. There’s a difference between a teacher, a speaker, a preacher, and a facilitator. A facilitator leads the gathering or group; guides the gathering towards its goals; and leads by example, not force. 
  • Create Guidelines and Goals. Overcome cynicism and inability by having participants create ground rules or guidelines before you begin. Brainstorm potential rules and write them down – but avoid too many rules. Every group should have some specific guidelines that all participants agree on.
  • Think about Framing & Sequencing. Facilitators introduce the purpose, or frame, the group they’re leading. An important consideration is the order in which you present groups, or sequencing.
  • Reflect, Reflect, Reflect. One way make group events matter is to reflect before, during, and after the reflection. You can see reflection as a circle: You start with an explanation what you are going to learn and
  • frame its purpose and goals to the group.
  • Create Safe Space. It is vital to create, foster, and support safe spaces where participants can learn together. Establishing a safe space is powerful, positive, and hopeful, and hope is a requirement for excellent facilitation.
  • Seek Consensus. Whenever a group is discussing a possible solution or coming to a decision on any matter, consensus is a tool excellent facilitators turn to.
  • Embrace the Journey. Learning is a process, not an outcome. Encourage participants to view the group process as a journey that has no particular destination. However, even experience cannot teach us what we do not seek to learn. John Dewey once wrote that we should seek, “Not perfection as a final goal, but the ever-enduring process of perfecting, maturing, refining is the aim of living.” This is true of excellent facilitation.
  • Embrace Challenges. Since excellent facilitation is a process, it is important to understand that there will be difficult times ahead. One of the keys to excellent facilitation is knowing that criticism will come – and that can be good.

Contact me if you’re interested in booking a training on excellent facilitation for your school, nonprofit, community, or agency. If you’re ready to take action to become an excellent facilitator all on your own, you can learn more about these principles from my 2011 article, “Becoming An Excellent Facilitator,” which is required reading for all CommonAction team members.

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