Facilitator resources – thought-provokers

January 15, 2016
  • Misc. Resources

Good educators are open to new ideas and to learning from other educators, inside and outside our union.

Instructors or facilitators?

At times, we use the terms instructor and facilitator interchangeably. However, these two terms represent two distinct ways to behave in a classroom. Most of us have probably been exposed to years of “instructors” in school and workplaces. But as labour educators, we value skills in helping our members recognize the knowledge in their lived experience, link that knowledge to real-life situations, and use what they’ve learned back to their workplaces and communities to advocate for workers rights and social justice. Here’s a short video that highlights the differences and key things to keep in mind as we facilitate!

Dealing with imposter syndrome as a steelworker facilitator

In my fourteen years of facilitation, and co-facilitating with members in the union, there are two common things I have noticed in myself and most co-facilitators. First, we try our hardest to do the best we can. Second, we are overly critical of ourselves. Could it be that most facilitators suffer from what is called “Imposter Syndrome”?

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Origins of the USW education program

Steelworkers are acknowledged leaders in labour education in Quebec and Canada. Our Back to the Locals courses are designed using solid principles of popular education, and our union has led the way with our use of member-facilitators to teach those courses.

At the USW 2019 National Policy Conference, delegates heard about the origins of the USW education program from its founders. Michel Blondin was responsible for District 5’s education program from 1975 to 1990, following many years of work as a community organizer in Quebec and overseas. D’Arcy Martin led the Steelworkers’ national education department from 1978 to 1986 and is one of Canada’s foremost labour educators.

Beating apathy

A common complaint we hear from stewards and other activists is: “My members are apathetic! They don’t want to do anything.” Nothing does away with apathy like successfully coming together in your workplace and winning a struggle with your boss. “Beating Apathy” is a free, downloadable course by the labour-activist organization Labor Notes. Sign up here and add to the ideas you, as a facilitator, can offer when the subject of apathy comes up in your classroom.

Asking questions that get people to think!

Asking Questions that Get People to Think!

When we’re facilitating, we often encounter interesting discussions that become great opportunities to engage participants in some critical thinking about the topics being discussed. At times, it can be hard to think of a thought-provoking question on the spot, so here are some tips and examples of questions you can ask to get people thinking more deeply and critically. Keep some of these in your back pocket to bring out when needed! Please see the following infosheets and feel free to explore for more information.

5 Steps to Asking Good Questions

The Ultimate Cheatsheet for Critical Thinking

Seven Questions to Ask Yourself Each Year

Courtney E. Martin has written an article containing seven questions that, adapted, can help us learn from our facilitation experience in 2017 and grow as facilitators in 2018. Why not ask yourself these questions at the beginning of each new year?

Jackson Katz: violence against women – it’s a men’s issue

Facilitators have to lead by example, and we should not shy away from conversations in the classroom about gender-based violence. Domestic violence and sexual abuse are often called “women’s issues.” In this TED Talk, Jackson Katz talks about the role of men in addressing gender-based violence. It’s a call for us all — women and men — to call out unacceptable behavior and be leaders of change.

Great ideas for mobilizing members

If course participants are looking for examples of how unions can keep our members engaged and unified, here are some real-life examples. These unions have had success under some of the toughest conditions: so-called “right to work” legislation. Refinery workers with USW Local 675 in District 12 are profiled, with links to other examples by postal workers and teachers.

Read the article

Frédérick Paradis, animateur du Syndicat des Métallos / USW educator Frédérick Paradis

L’animateur du Syndicat des Métallos Frédérick Paradis se penche sur l’éducation en Afrique du Sud après une visite organisée par le Fonds humanitaire des Métallos. (En français) / USW facilitator Frédérick Paradis reflects on union education in South Africa, following a visit organized by the Steelworkers Humanity Fund. (In French)

Listen to the podcast

USW educator Stephanie Gunson

USW instructor Stephanie Gunson visited South Africa with the Steelworkers Humanity Fund, and describes her experience attending a globalization school for trade unionists.

Listen to the podcast

Challenge these comments about aboriginal people in your classroom (and in yourself)

As Canadians and Steelworkers learn to live respectfully with Aboriginal Canadians, it’s important that we learn to separate fact from fiction. In this short video, author and now Manitoba NPD MLA Wab Kinew debunks some misunderstandings.

Stop lecturing me!

USW facilitators might ask: why all these activities? Why don’t we just TELL participants what they need to know or do? There are several good reasons why we avoid lecturing, but the main one is: it just doesn’t work. 

USW facilitators might wonder sometimes: why all these activities? Why don’t we just TELL participants what they need to know or do?

There are several good reasons why we avoid lecturing participants. It’s a top-down, undemocratic process, for one thing. But the main reason is: it just doesn’t work. Adults don’t learn very much from lectures.

Here’s an excerpt from an article published in Scientific American in 2014. The author, Carl Wieman, won a Nobel Prize in 2001 and teaches in Stanford University’s department of physics and its graduate school of education.

We can apply his reasoning to our work in union classrooms.

“At the college level, the evidence is clear: science students learn less when they are expected to listen passively.

“University science professors preach a gospel of seeking truth through data and careful experimentation, yet when they walk into a classroom, they use methods that are outmoded and ineffective. The overwhelming fraction of undergraduate science courses are taught by a professor lecturing to students, even in the face of many hundreds of studies showing that alternative teaching methods demonstrate much greater student learning and lower failure rates.

“These different methods go by a number of names, including active learning. Their common feature is that, rather than listening passively, students spend class time engaged in answering questions, solving problems, discussing solutions with their peers and reasoning about the material they are studying, all while getting regular feedback from their teachers. As reported in a 2012 study by the National Academy of Sciences and in a detailed review published online in May in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, this approach improves learning across the science and engineering disciplines and in both introductory and advanced courses. . . . .

“With so much scientific evidence behind active learning, the obvious question is, Why are these methods so seldom used in colleges and universities? Part of it is just habit; lectures began at universities because they did not have books, and so information had to be dictated and copied. Teaching methods have not yet adapted to the invention of the printing press. A second reason is a fundamentally flawed understanding of learning. Most people, including university faculty and administrators, believe learning happens by a person simply listening to a teacher. This is true if one is learning something very simple, like “Eat the red fruit, not the green one,” but complex learning. . . requires extended practice and interaction to literally rewire the brain to take on new capabilities.”

Unsure how to respond when participants ask about “reverse racism”?

This comedian sums it up, giving a clear explanation of the deep roots and long history of racism.

USW educator Dusty Palmer

USW instructor Dusty Palmer shares some thoughts about labour education, based on a recent visit to South Africa, in this short podcast.

USW educator Tracy Simpson

USW instructor Tracy Simpson experienced how South African trade unionists do labour education. In this short podcast, she tells us what she learned.