Discovery versus telling


September 2nd, 2008

Many years ago I worked in community education. Our mantra (a bit cliched now, but nonetheless still true) was: “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.”

Not surprisingly, this applies just as much to facilitation and learning. Here’s how I applied this principle in recent training in Zambia. I used one of Thiagi‘s favourite activities (slightly modified) called  ’35’.Facilitation skills were a part of the 7-day program, integral, but not the main focus. Someone asked for our top 10 facilitation tips (after I demonstrated how to remove permanent pen from a whiteboard using whiteboard markers – sometimes the simplest things are most profound!).

There were 22 people – so I wrote out 22 different tips (from myself and Keren, my co-facilitator) on small cards and then handed them out randomly. I introduced the activity and did 5 rounds, people scoring each tip against another one, awarding scores out of 7 (7 x 5 = 35, the maximum score – hence the name). Then I got them to line up in order and we heard the tips in their order. The biggest surprise? What would have been my #1 tip was their #22! Now that was humbling.

But that’s not really the point of this activity – it allowed participants to engage with the data, discuss the tips in pairs, and rate them. I firmly believe this is more helpful than simply handing out a list of Viv & Keren’s tips. And, yes, it would have been even more ‘their activity’ if they had come up with their own tips. However, we’d done something like that the previous day – so these tips were additional.

Oh, you want to know what was #22?

Mix up your processes and if something is not working, stop it and do something else.

And their #1?

Recognise that the group have the answers – not you! Help the group unearth their knowledge.

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