A facilitator can make or break a dialogue. Use the following tips to identify the qualities that make a good facilitator.
A key way to create the space for civil dialogue is to have a skilled facilitator who understands how to create the climate of safe and respectful experience where participants listen authentically to each other (while withholding judgment), appreciate multiple perspectives, build on each other’s best thinking, and take the intellectual risks to contribute new thinking to the group.
According to the Study Circles Resource Center, good dialogue facilitators:
- are neutral; the facilitator’s opinions are not part of the discussion
- help the group set its ground rules, and keep to them
- help group members grapple with the content by asking probing questions
- help group members identify areas of agreement and disagreement
- bring in points of view that haven’t been talked about
- create opportunities for everyone to participate
- focus and help to clarify the discussion
- summarize key points in the discussion, or ask others to do so
- are self-aware; good facilitators know their own strengths, weaknesses, biases, and values
- are able to put the group first
- have a passion for the group process with its never-ending variety
- appreciate all kinds of people
- are committed to democratic principles.
Chart provided by: International Association of Facilitators (IAF)
In schools and communities that are working to make learning more student-centered, choosing an effective facilitator is an important step toward elevating—and helping to resolve—the important issues at hand.