The Benefits of Facilitating Over Lecturing

Last week I had the opportunity to lead a workshop at the Lutheran Educators’ Conference on how schools can use their websites to communicate more effectively while at the same time saving time and money.  Twenty-five to thirty teachers, administrators, and technical directors participated in the workshop.

One cool thing about it is that the participants actually contributed about half of the content of the workshop.  Rather spending the entire 75 minutes talking about what I know about school website, I invited the participants to share their insight.

  • A school should put all info for prospective students on its website.  Can you name some of those things?
  • A school should put all forms and policies on its website.  Can you give some examples?
  • A school should put all school-wide communication on its website.  What are your school-wide communications?

Oh, and I bribed them for their input by throwing a Hershey’s Kiss for each suggestion. J

Not all settings are conducive to facilitating, but there are a lot of benefits to doing a workshop or conference this way…

1) The participants gain more knowledge. Even if you’re the most knowledgeable person in the room, you don’t know everything.  Other people through their reading and personal experience have valuable insight that everyone in the room can benefit from.

2) The workshop is more interesting. There are very few people who I could to listen to speak for 60+ minutes straight without starting to nod off.  And I know nobody would want to listen to me for 60+ minutes straight.  If you’re in the workshop even if you don’t say a word, you’re going to be more engaged by hearing different voices, listening to the interaction, and turning to see whoever’s speaking at the time.

3) It encourages the participants. The reason we go to conferences and workshops is because we want to learn how to change things to make them better.  Anytime you are trying to change things, there are challenges, there’s resistance.  When a person has a chance to share their ideas and what they’re doing and they see the nods from the other participants, it’s a great motivator.  It’s like everyone’s saying, “Yeah, you’re on the right track. Keep going.”

For centuries, the lecture has been king in almost every learning situation – the classroom, conferences, even churches.  In part that was because knowledge was not easy to come by and it was also relatively stagnant.  Your teacher could lecture on American history because she had studied it for decades and it hadn’t changed since she was in school. You pastor could lecture on the book of Revelation because he went to seminary and can read the original Greek.

But things have changed.

Sure there are still situations where lectures are the best way for people to learn, but facilitating is often a better option.  Because of the explosion and distribution of information, it’s virtually impossible for one person to have read everything or know everything about a particular topic.  And because things are changing so fast and individuals are constantly experimenting with new ideas, other people’s personal experiences and insight are tremendously valuable.

This is changing the way we learn.  In the last decade we’ve seen an explosion in the collaborative learning.  In college classrooms there is more discussion than ever before.  In churches small/life groups are gaining in prominence.

Next month I’ll be at the Catalyst conference, which though known for its speakers has been adding more and more break-out sessions or labs.  And later in the month I’ll be at the Cultivate conference, which has no lectures at all and sessions will be facilitating the collaborative learning process.

Where in your life – in your work, school, ministry, community – are there people with valuable insight who are not really getting the opportunity to share it?  Where could people benefit from less lecturing and more facilitating?

[image by billhectorweye]

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