One, two, three

Here’s three posts that caught my attention this evening:


‘Peeragogy’ and the Spanish Inquisition

Peer-to-peer learning and elicitive models of education have been on my mind of late. As often happens a couple of highly relevant links popped into my inbox (hat tip to Dwight Towers).

The first is yet another excellent post from FacilitatorU titles “It’s not the Spanish Inquisition” on curiosity and questions. It invites us to be naive and curious in our questions like TV detective Columbo:

“Columbo was an unassuming and seemingly absent-minded character. He dressed in sloppy clothing, drove a dumpy car, smoked a fat cigar, and seemed to ask the most innocent and naive questions, usually in passing. His trademark move was to spin around on his way out the door at the close of an interview, rubbing his brow, saying, “Oh I’m sorry. If you don’t mind, there’s just one more thing that I just don’t understand….” Columbo’s disarming, humble, and innocent attitude, always got him the answers he needed to solve the most difficult cases.

What if you were to navigate via curiosity to help your groups solve their most difficult cases? What, if anything would you have to change in your attitude or approach? Oh, and there’s just one more thing that I’d like to ask. What, if anything would you have to change about the way you see yourself as a group leader?”


The second is Howard Rheingold’s post on the DMLCentral blog “Towards Peeragogy”. Rheingold’s post is set in the world of digital media learning, but translates to other settings. From the outset it grabbed my attention:

“The more I give my teacher-power to students and encourage them to take more responsibility for their own learning, the more they show me how to redesign my ways of teaching.”

Later he continues:

“In retrospect, I can see the coevolution of my learning journey: my first step was to shift from conventional lecture-discussion-test classroom techniques to lessons that incorporated social media, my second step gave students co-teaching power and responsibility, my third step was to elevate students to the status of co-learner. It began to dawn on me that the next step was to explore ways of instigating completely self-organized, peer-to-peer online learning.

The ultimate test of peer learning is to organize a course without the direction of an instructor. Although subject-matter experts and skilled learning facilitators are always a bonus, it is becoming clear that with today’s tools and some understanding of how to go about it, groups of self-directed learners can organize their own courses online”


That’s a big gauntlet to throw down to participatory educators everywhere. As always, feel free to share your successes and struggles here.


Group as expert

I’ve just debriefed with Denise and Annie, fellow Turning The Tide folk . This weekend we co-facilitated a residential on “effective group working” as part of a year-long course that TTT offer.

A lot was learnt  – including about the vulnerability of the facilitation role as well as the need to sometimes tell a group like you see it,  to hold up the mirror even if the image in it isn’t pretty. For their part, one of the many things the group struggled with (and learnt) was about their own authority, their ability to decide the rules, to question, and to direct their own learning.

And then I read the FacilitatorU post on Finding Value in Our Ignorance – an appeal for facilitators to step away from the role of expert for the sake of the group’s empowerment. Many of the same themes run through their post. Here’s a taste:

“In most cases, facilitators are highly regarded professionals. We must present a strong and professional image as we’re “on stage” much of the time, performing an important function for our clients, employees, students, neighbors, etc. And as is often the case with people standing in front of a room, orchestrating processes, offering feedback and advice, we are looked to as authorities, as experts, as wise men and women.

So it’s not surprising when we begin to believe these things about ourselves and feel we have to live up to the “image” of the professional expert. As this image takes hold in our own minds, it may be difficult at times to not have the answer or know where to go next. In and of itself, this is not a bad place to be, however, we can really short change those we serve by withholding this information…

… I suggest that one of the most powerful things you can do as a leader or as a facilitator is to empower your people to access and utilize their own wisdom and problem-solving skills as a group. This is not likely to happen when they are focused on you as the authority.”


Intuition – a guide for facilitators

There’s an excellent post, The Intuitive Facilitator, over at the FacilitatorU blog. If you’ve ever found yourself thinking or saying “I wish I’d gone with my instinct’ or ‘I  knew I should have done that differently’ then I’d strongly suggest you read it. For the time-limited here’s my highlights:

“As a facilitator, intuition helps me assess the group processes, determine when to change its direction or my approach, guides me to helping the group move forward, leads me to ask the tough questions, gives me insight into what the group may need or how and where the group may be going. Ignoring my intuition usually results in inflexible processes and results…

When I work with individuals or groups I prepare carefully everything that is needed, but then I let it go. When I start working I am focused on the other(s), what happens to them, between them, and in relation to myself. At the same time, I am self-aware, grounded and relaxed. The interventions I make based on my intuition sometimes surprise me. Afterwards I try to understand how I came to this intervention and how effective it was…

Sometimes the gut feel is misinformed. So part of using intuition is to carefully listen for feedback after I’ve taken action, to see if I’ve done something wrong”

and a checklist for improving intuition:

  • “Don’t judge, don’t assume. Be open, listen, pause and check in, reflect, be more aware of your own responses, feelings, and inner sensations.
  • Be open, patient, and set aside your ego as best you can. The more you practice trusting, acting upon, and assessing the results of using your intuition, the more powerful this resource will become. But the key is trust and believing.
  • Incorporate internal practices such as meditation, affirmations, surrender, and loving and trusting yourself and your inner promptings.
  • Acting on your intuition often requires that you take a risk sharing something or doing something for whose purpose you don’t quite understand. This takes courage. You can get better at this by practicing releasing your need to be right, and/or give yourself permission to be wrong!
  • I often ask my clients to imagine that their intuition has shape, form and texture, and then describe it in detail; what does it sound like, where do they feel it in their body; what color is it; what is the texture, temperature and tone? I encourage them to keep track of their intuitive ‘hits’, to pay attention to when and where they show up. It isn’t about proving it right or wrong, but about developing the skill of subtle perception.
  • Become an intensely active listener, on all levels. Listen beyond the words. Listen to tone, notice body language patterns, degrees of engagement, listen to the buzz in the room. Pay attention to what is working for a group and what’s not. Risk going “off script” every once in a while and notice what happens. When you notice a feeling in your gut, check it out with your group or with someone your trust. Eventually, you’ll learn what feelings to respond to, and which you can ignore.”

There’s plenty more where this came from. I really appreciate this grounding of intuition in active listening. It’s obvious but not always articulated. Yet another reason to work on that listening! For me intuition is about giving myself permission to listen to my own emotional state – not something I’ve always done as a facilitator because I’ve been striving for an impartial state, which has its uses. But it’s something I’m playing with more and more and finding it surprisingly helpful, and accurate.