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Flexing Facilitation Muscles at UBCO

I’ve been spending time the last couple of months reading and watching videos about facilitation online and face-to-face, and discussing the possibilities of different techniques with colleagues and FLO (Facilitating Learning Online) workshop participants. But I have had limited opportunities to really test out new approaches with other experienced facilitators, so I was thrilled to have the chance to “flex some facilitator muscle” with Sylvia Currie and Beth Cougler Blom during several face-to-face events hosted at Kelowna’s amazing UBCO campus.

1.  May 31 – FLO Enthusiasts gathering

a visual illustration of FLO development

The flow of FLO

BCcampus manager, Sylvia Currie, organized a one day gathering of FLO-FDO enthusiasts (Facilitating Learning Online and Facilitator Development Online workshops) at UBC’s beautiful Okanagan campus. The session objectives and intentions were diverse and emergent and our audience was knowledgeable and open to sharing and exploring. What a great environment to try a range of facilitation practices!

SylviaC started us off by “setting the scene” for participants with less knowledge of the development of FLO workshops.

Purpose to Practice wall chartBeth got us rolling by introducing the Purpose to Practice structure  (a Liberating Structures technique) that we planned to use to keep us on track and support the varied facilitation techniques we were going to explore.

We created a wall chart of the structure to allow us to refocus throughout the day and to collect the outcomes of different explorations. At the end of each activity, coloured notes (Post-its) containing the essential findings/suggestions were posted to the relevant “petal”.

slide Low Tech Social NetworkI took the opportunity to try a new approach (new to me!) to warm up the group – a Low Tech Social Network game from Gamestorming. As the “enthusiasts” didn’t all know each other, it was a creative way to have them share something about themselves, what FLO meant to them and to take a few minutes to see what they had in common with others. The integration of simple drawings and having to post their avatars on the wall seemed to be really effective. We also used the “network” wall later in the day to brainstorm the additional people we would have liked to have at our session.

CoverStory-slideBeth tried another Gamestorming technique “Cover Story” that challenges participants “think big” by creating a magazine cover that “tells the story” of  what things would look like several years in the future. Our challenge was: “What would the widespread adoption of FLO look like by 2020?”

The activity generated a lot of concentrated work and some bursts of laughter. The storytelling by each group was rich and diverse. I had wondered whether the need to make the story visual would slow down the creative sharing but it didn’t – and allowing them to speak about the cover story made it more meaningful for everyone.

SC-principlesWe switched back to Liberating Structures to identify our “rules” or Principles (from the Purpose to Practice chart). I started them with Min Specs and asked them to think about “must dos and must not dos” to help us achieve our purpose. My estimate of time was way off as people began generating a list of maximum specifications and then consolidating the items and voting on the most important (what couldn’t we do without) “rules”.

We had planned to follow Min Specs with 25/10 Crowdsourcing (moving from listing ideas to thinking “big picture” again) but we consulted during their group work (the joy of working with two experienced facilitators is the flexibility and imaginative problem-solving that becomes possible!).

SC-networkWe rejigged and simplified the remainder of the afternoon to ensure that everyone had a chance to share.

We drew them back to the Low Tech Social Network wall to collect ideas about the additional people (Participants) they thought would be important to achieving our Purpose – we had people write the titles or people or organizations (not specific names) and post them around the perimeter of the network wall.

Beth refocused the group on thinking about Structures and Practices how each person thought we could re-organize to distribute control (Structures) and to identify next steps (Practices).

SylviaC pulled the day together by facilitating an open sharing and storytelling circle (a very loose circle) to allow each person to share their final thoughts about what we’d accomplished and what lay ahead.

By the end of the day we had learned a lot about what worked and what didn’t about the facilitation techniques we’d chosen and we had a very useful collection of ideas and artifacts that we’re still distilling to guide us further.

2.  Jun 1, 2 – ETUG’s Spring Jam Workshop

During our planning for the May 31st session, we talked about putting in a proposal for ETUG’s spring workshop. Somewhere along the way (I blame Beth), we ended up putting in three proposals and all three were accepted.

One of the sessions was fairly straightforward – we wanted to engage participants in our “wicked question” – how to spread FLO. We discussed different facilitation strategies and came up with a plan.

But the real challenge was designing our two “linked” sessions to explore two phases of Human Centered Design Thinking. How could we make that work in under two hours without knowing whether the participants from the first session would continue on into the 2nd session? How could we develop useful ideas with so little time and with participants that we couldn’t study or whose experiences we couldn’t share directly?  I wouldn’t have tried this alone but, I decided that it was definitely possible with Beth leading the way as she’d applied different aspects of this approach in her co-teaching and previous facilitation work.

Quick note:  We used the Human-centered Design Thinking approaches developed by IDEO (an internationally recognized design firm) – you can explore the resources on their Design Kit site

sketchnote Beth-Sylvia sessionsThe basic outline of our plan – thanks to @BarbaraBerry  pic.twitter.com/QuSNVcebwV

Session 1:  Inspiration

  • Introduce our Wicked Challenge:

How might BC higher educational institutions effectively share quality teaching and learning resources with each other?

  • Analogous Inspiration method:  provide different examples of sharing systems that participants might know. Ask them to work in groups and gather their thoughts about “behaviours” “activities” “emotions” they had experienced or might anticipate
  • Expert Interviews method:  provide participants with a guiding question sheet. Have them work in pairs (an interviewer to pose questions; a recorder to record the answers). Participants could choose to divide into threes and interview each other OR a pair could go out into the hallways and find people to interview.
  • Core insights and key learnings:  participants were given time to reflect and record their key learnings from each activity. What insights and thoughts had they had that might suggest a potential solution to our challenge?

Key learnings sheets were collected to be shared during the next session.

Session 2:  Ideation

  • Introduce(remind participants) of our Wicked Challenge
  • Distribute the Key Learnings sheets
  • Bundle Ideas method:  we allowed time for participants to work together to understand the items on the sheets and to consolidate them to develop one list of ideas (grouping ideas that seemed very similar). We hoped to have the group review the top ideas from each small group and to use a dotmocracy approach to identify the top ideas that we might prototype. We decided, because of time constraints, to try to get the group to identify one idea to develop.
  • Concept development methodsFrameworks and Map the Journey  I intended to ask participants to identify the elements of a system (suggested by their top idea) that might provide a prototype of a solution we could design. The 2nd step would have been to draw a map of what a user would experience as they utilized the system and moved between the parts or structures of the framework.

We adapted the concept development approach to ask people to draw a representation of their solution to the one potential solution that the group had identified. Groups were given a chance to quickly explain their drawing and solution.

Although the time limits made this very challenging, we did get some creative thinking happening and some thoughtful suggestions about practical steps to develop the idea maps further. During the Ideation session, I think we would have benefited from allowing the groups to identify different “top” ideas and develop their idea in any way they chose (drawing, oral description, storyboards, lists).

My overall learning about these sessions – good practice for guiding people through complex thinking tasks but the real value of “human centered” design thinking isn’t really possible to explore in such a limited timeframe.

I came away from our facilitation “workouts” with a renewed appreciation of the importance of humour, understanding and patience to support new learning. It would have been impossible to become a stronger facilitator without those elements – from my co-facilitators and our participants.

Further learning:

 

Facilitating FLO at ABEABC conference – in two part harmony…

Harrison Hot Springs hotel

Location – ABEABC Conference

Location – ABEABC Conference[/caption]Last week really proved the value and benefits of co-facilitation! Sylvia Currie and I had been invited to share what FLO (Facilitating Learning Online) was all about with a group of adult basic education instructors at their annual conference in Harrison Hot Springs. Normally I would have hesitated to take on something like the conference session while I was in the middle (Week 3!) of a FLO workshop. But I was able to plan ahead with my co-facilitator Beth Cougler-Blom and she covered my absence during the 3 days I was in Harrison. And my previous co-facilitation of FLO with Sylvia Currie meant that our planning went smoothly and I knew we’d work well together during the conference session.

The Adult Basic Education Association of BC (ABEABC) formed in 1979 and today, 37 years later, is run by an amazing group of committed, knowledgeable adult basic education and literacy instructors. The organizer of this year’s conference was Leonne Beebe, currently an ABE-Math instructor at University of Fraser Valley and an FLO-FDO facilitator (Facilitating Learning Online-Facilitator Development Online)

FLO LogoLeonne invited us to the conference as she knew that many of the topics that we deal with throughout the five week FLO workshop are relevant in adult basic education contexts. We selected three important topics to focus our 90 minute session on Thursday afternoon (April 21):

  • workload management,
  • assessment approaches, and
  • responsive facilitation.

We began with a brief explanation and illustration of FLO’s weekly themes and topics and tried to convey the sense of community that we try to develop and the emphasis on participation and reflective practice the workshop offers.

FLO ThemesSylvia and I tried a “string” of micro-structures drawn from Liberating Structures menu (http://www.liberatingstructures.com/ls) to engage the ABEABC audience members in sharing and analysis of elements of student success and instructor challenges in online ABE courses.

Impromptu NetworkingWhat, So what, Now what1-2-4-ALLMin Specs

 

 

 

We began the session with Impromptu Networking, asking participants to introduce themselves and share a statement of what they wanted to “get out of the session” with other participants. This structure can be done in different ways but we chose to divide the participants into two small circles; each person was given a minute to share, a minute to listen and then they were asked to move on to the next person. On the last cycle, we asked them to exchange cards and, explained that we would re-unite them at the end of the session so they could do a personal “check-in” to see if the other person achieved what they wanted at the beginning.  I think that the participants found this energizing and connecting but, as a facilitator, I think I need to find a way to capture the outcomes for my own satisfaction. Did our participants achieve what they wanted? Were they satisfied with what they learned?

We used the “What?-So what?-Now what?” structure to help participants identify important questions around the three main topics (Assessment, Workload Management, Responsive Facilitation). We used those questions to pre-load three stations around the room; participants were asked to move to the station that was of most interest to them and engage in a modified 1-2-4-ALL and Min Specs. They had had a chance to reflect on their questions (1) and we began their station discussions in pairs, then moved them to station groups (4) and then shared back their discoveries or questions to the large group. The Min Specs was used to draw out ideas for what could be done to address the question they decided to focus on at each station.

An interesting exercise and I think most of the participants left with some new insights and ideas into important areas of ABE practice in online environments. We had an opportunity to try another way to engage learners and discovered ways to refine and adjust our next use of micro-structures. And we learned a great deal about the challenges these educators face in trying to support learning and success for their diverse students!

 

Launching a “NEW FLO” workshop

Well…we’re underway – today we launched the April 2016 offering of Facilitating Learning Online (offered through BCcampus). It’s an exciting new approach and some significant changes in content and facilitation – at least that’s what Beth Cougler-Blom, Sylvia Currie, Leonne Beebe and Myra Rhodes will be testing and supporting in the next five weeks!Warm-up

Back in early February, BCCampus and Royal Roads University invited FLO afficionados (Faclitating Learning Online workshop) and FDO grads (Facilitator Development Online) to participate in a two-day Design Sprint at the beautiful RRU campus, tucked into the trees and overlooking the water on the northwest side of Victoria. What a place to disconnect from regular work demands and focus on improvement and innovation! A bit of an overview can be found here: https://proflearn.bccampus.ca/flo-design-sprint/

Sustained by the awesome snacks, lunches and beverages organized by the Professional Learning Team from BCcampus, we did a “deep dive” into the collected FLO feedback and our own experiences of Facilitating Learning Online – the five week workshop that RRU developed in-house and then shared through an OER contract and BCcampus took to the educators of BC and adapted and molded and reshaped since early 2015. We all recognized that we had to address the “overload” issues reported by facilitators and participants – despite the enthusiastic feedback about the transformational learning that occurred for many students, we wanted to make it better and more “do-able” for teachers who needed a chance to practice and develop their skills as online instructors.

So, what are we able to test this time? What’s different?FLO Themes

  • removed the cursory consideration of online design – set aside for future development into a stand-alone (or complementary model) so that people could really focus and learn about issues of online design/development in terms of learner success;
  • agreed on a primary focus/purpose:  to develop a foundation of skills and knowledge about facilitating learning online;
  • reduced workload and start-up anxiety for facilitation teams by scripting examples of instructions and scheduling and ideas for structuring learning activities for peers within FLO;
  • eliminated duelling sessions within a week – reduced weekly facilitated learning activities to three – Week 2,3,4;
  • converted the two weekly mini-sessions to “stream team” activities and added one (workload and time management) – facilitation tasks will be spread out over the five weeks (raises potential questions about “noise” for learners – we’re going slowly with this model);
  • test drive one of the “new” types of facilitating activities – a “stream” team supported by LeonneB, that will encourage and support a specific topic throughout the five weeks of the workshop (in contrast to the “weekly” boundaries around the other facilitated sessions).
  • other changes to reduce confusion and allow participants to focus and build community and practice facilitation techniques and strategies!

Wheww!  We’ve taken on a lot but it should make this an amazing and constructive learning experience for participants – and for all of us. So many possibilities and richness of learning. I’ll be keeping a personal journal and trying to report regularly in these blog posts. We hope to have a lot to debrief and share with our guiding Committee and others.

Stay tuned!

SylviaR

 

Liberation in quick gulps…

33 micro-structuresI have been looking forward to the Liberating Structures Workshop for ages – since I first learned about it at the Fall ETUG event. I had big ambitions to visit the site and explore all the blog posts and descriptions of the 33 liberating structures but, as with many of the other participants here, I ran out of time. 

We began Day 1 with a familiar activity with a twist – Impromptu Networking was a focused "meet & greet" activity – timed cycles where we paired up and shared what we hoped to get from the workshop and what we could contribute, and a challenge we hoped to focus on. I've done smiliar icebreakers before but liked the 3 cycles we went through with a debrief with Keith McCandless & team to really think about the value and purpose of the action.

And the rest of the day progressed from there – we walked the talk for sure – involved in activities with short bursts of guiding discussion and instructions between each brief but intense "gulps" of learning. Some participants questioned the consistent chime and bell nudges but it kept a group of disparate individuals (over a 100) moving through and experiencing and even sharing reflections throughout the day. Lots more to write about but I'm about to start Day 2.

Last thought:  I did a rough review of my notes and we tested and reflected / "unpacked" our experiences of over 12 different micro-structures. Definitely the co-developer of Liberating Structures Keith McCandless and his "Dream Team":  Tracy Kelly, BCcampus Professional Learning, Leva Lee, Open Learning/ETUG, Kele Fleming, UBC CTLT and, Cathy , Shawna Fenwick, consultant, and Fisher Qua, consultant  were amazing and provided me with all kinds of ideas to make my next facilitation event flow smoothly and provide a great experience for participants.