Skill building tools

Making group decisions and building consensus

At times while we facilitate, a participant will make a suggestion that requires agreement from the entire group. This can occur at any time and cover a wide range of items, but we typically see it when it comes to course start times or breaks. While trying to get everyone to come to an agreement can sometimes seem pretty straightforward, there is a way to reach consensus following a few simple steps that can be used during course facilitation, other union activities or other aspects of our lives. View the step-by-step Consensus Flowchart, and for a more detailed discussion of building consensus with groups, see an Introduction for Consensus Decision Making from Seeds for Change.

Facilitating meetings

Want to practice your facilitation skills between courses? Want to impress your colleagues by having interesting, inclusive, and productive meetings? This leaflet focuses on some tools and tips to improve your facilitation skills for meetings and large groups discussions.

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A tool for asking strategic questions

Asking good questions during a workshop is important for all facilitators. But there is key strategic question facilitators must ask themselves first. What kind of answers do I want? This tool helps facilitators strategize on the type of answers are provided.

Helpful tool to use when facilitating and developing courses: Bloom’s Taxonomy

Often when trying to decide which questions to ask in a group discussion, which activities to use in course design or in developing learning objectives, it can be helpful to use “Bloom’s Taxonomy.” This is a hierarchy, which means that skills and knowledge at a lower level are necessary for learning at higher levels. For example, it is necessary for people to know and understand specific collective agreement language before they are able to analyze and evaluate its effectiveness in real life situations. This framework can help guide questions to ask during group discussions as well as help participants to start to critically think about the work they do as activists.

International Federation of Workers’ Education Associations (IFWEA) E-Bulletin

USW educators are part of a global family of people doing labour and workers’ education. The International Federation of Workers’ Education Associations (IFWEA) puts out a regular newsletter with interesting updates from many countries and links to videos, podcasts, and other tools. Click here to see a recent issue, and sign up if you’d like to receive regular mailings.

Giving and receiving feedback

Feedback is an essential tool to help us learn new skills and improve existing ones. Like most things, giving inexpert feedback can hinder rather than help. Many of us also struggle to take feedback. We can find it hard to accept praise and it’s easy to get defensive when we’re given negative criticism. The tips in this guide will help you to not only give feedback constructively but also make the most of any feedback given to you.

How to deal with difficult participants

Working with a new group of members can be a lot of fun but as facilitators we occasionally run into some challenging classroom situations. Although we establish the group “learning atmosphere” and set other logistical guidelines for class, at times things may pop-up that need to be addressed in order to ensure a positive and inclusive learning environment. Here are some tips on how to identify and deal with some challenging situations.

Using questions when facilitating

Questioning is a technique used by facilitators during workshops, meetings or one-on-one mentoring – it’s an alternative to presenting information and answers. It’s about asking the individual or group you’re working with a question, or series of questions, to enable them to find their own solutions to the challenges they face. Adapted from:

Avoiding death by PowerPoint

We have all heard the phrase “death by PowerPoint” and unfortunately, many of us have experienced it (although hopefully none of us have delivered it). In labour education, we understand that magic happens when participants learn from each other. Our role is to facilitate that process. As technology evolves we have more tools available, but is this creating seen a shift away from the participatory model? Is PowerPoint a barrier to learning because it creates “experts” and limits participation by moving the attention from the group to a screen?

DIY: Using a facilitator journal for self-improvement

You can be your own coach in improving your facilitation skills. This article provides a standardized facilitator journal to help you begin.

The Facilitator’s role

USW’s “Back to the Locals” education program is based on members educating other members. PeerNetBC provides training, information and resources to strengthen peer-led initiatives. Their web site provides some useful tools for facilitators.

Coaching small-group work

In Steelworker workshops, participants spend a lot of time interacting with each other in small groups. Working effectively and respectfully in a small group is a form of solidarity. It also creates the conditions where good ideas and information can emerge. How can a facilitator help these things happen?

Dealing with facilitator butterflies

Nervous about facilitating or instructing? USW’s national equality representative and long-time facilitator, Kai Lai, describes a practical way to deal with this common problem.