All service learning programs owe their success in part to the experts and leaders who uniquely guide each group through the course. A successful experience hinges on the caliber and technique that each facilitator utilizes to engage and guide the students.
It is a delicate balance between providing structure without taking away from the voice of the group as a collective whole. Below we explain the 5 key factors that every good facilitator should employ.
1. Let individuals draw on their unique strengths
A good facilitator gets to know the individual students who comprise the group and celebrates the diversity that exists among the members. Each student should be allowed the space to cultivate their own particular strengths and utilize them in reaching the overall goals and aims of the group. It is the job of a strong facilitator to pick up on these differences and provide space for each student to draw on their personal abilities.
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2.Take time for reflection
Continuous reflection should be implemented in order to foster both individual and group growth. It is the job of the facilitator to take moments to pause throughout the day when reflection would help solidify an educational connection to a real world situation. Reflection should always be group directed so that the facilitator is merely guiding the conversation when necessary. Ideally as the course progresses the students will begin running reflection sessions entirely on their own.
Further Reading: Service Learning: How to Implement Effective Reflection
3. Make communication and decision making a group effort
Similar to reflection sessions, problem solving and decision making should also be guided by the facilitator, but never dictated by them. From start to finish students should have a voice equal to that of the group facilitator. A good way to think of the facilitator is less of a director or teacher and more of an equal group member who helps to guide processes and decisions when necessary.
4. Learn equally from the students
A good facilitator knows that they themselves are not the only expert in the group and thus lead with an open mind and a listening ear. A good facilitator sees the students as equally competent and will be mindful of taking a backseat throughout the process, letting students take the reins, and believing that the group’s success depends on everyone’s efforts and contributions.
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5. Provide closure and a space to debrief
A service learning course does not end when the students return home and it is the facilitator’s job to guide conversations and action surrounding continued local and global engagement. In addition there should be time provided for individuals to practice communicating the hard and soft skills that they acquired, the challenges that they faced, and the successes that they inevitably achieved.
Have additional advice on what you believe makes a good facilitator? Make sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below and keep the conversation going.
GVI is a multi-award winning Service Learning organization. Find out more about our international service learning programs and see how students from around the world are making a difference.