Monday, February 20, 2012

Co-facilitation Tips

As I begin my journey transforming from a reading teacher to a sexuality educator, I am both excited and terrified.  As part of my practicum experience, I will have the opportunity to receive training through observation and co-facilitation.  I feel an important part of learning is being able to learn from those who have more experience than I do.  Co-facilitation is an excellent way for me to get experience as well as learn the ins and outs of the organization and their goals.  Not only am I building a name for myself as a sexuality educator, I am also representing the organization.  While I want to jump right in and begin teaching on my own, I know that training through co-facilitation is an important step on my journey to becoming a sexuality educator.

Co-facilitating can be a highly effective and advantageous method of delivering instruction.  However, it can also be tricky navigating different teaching/presenting styles, boundaries and planning.  Before my first co-facilitation experience, I checked out several articles and websites about co-facilitating, including an article by Kevin Eikenberry and Everywoman's Center  There are steps that can be taken to help co-facilitating run more smoothly.

I had a great experience co-facilitating recently at a presentation to a small group of college students.  Before we began our lesson, everything had been completely planned and it was clear who was presenting which section.  Going into the presentation, I had a good sense of how my co-facilitator typically presented information.  My style is different than hers, so before introducing a different way of presenting, I shared my ideas about how I wanted to conduct my parts of the lesson.  Good communication is needed for instruction and transitions to go easily.  Not only should communication happen before the presentation, but it should happen during and after as well.  There should be constant communication throughout the presentation.  One recommendation is to create a signal before the presentation designed to get the others' attention.  Sometimes during a presentation, while one facilitator is presenting, the other jumps in to say something, interrupting the flow of instruction.  Another tip is to ask the other person if there is anything to add after completing instruction.  This is essential before beginning co-facilitation because it sets rules and boundaries for each facilitator.  By doing this, presenters can help each other and create a stronger lesson, rather than wok against each other.

Throughout the presentation, I stood to the side so that I was not a distraction to the students.  Since there can be so many different distractions within any presentation, it is important that the co-facilitator does not add to them by rustling papers or standing visually in the way of the other presenter.  I feel it would be unprofessional for me to have a side conversation or be an obvious distraction during my co-facilitator's presentation.  Additionally, I was able to assist her when handouts needed to be distributed, which allowed her to continue teaching and presenting information.  By assisting her, the presentation was able to flow well.

Every teacher has a different teaching personality and persona.  I know that I will not be able to reach every member of the audience because not all personalities relate to one another.  By co-facilitating, there are two personalities and styles that will hopefully reach more students.  Not only that, but there are two "experts" to help answer questions and guide discussions.  While having two different personalities can be difficult to navigate, with good communication, two teaching styles are implemented, which can help reach a variety of learners.

Since I feel as though I am still in the process of training, I found myself looking more to my co-facilitator rather than being certain of myself and my abilities.  As Eikenberry pointed out, there is a higher level of comfort through co-facilitation.  I think that is certainly true for me as a novice within sexuality education.  My co-facilitator was fully supportive and encouraging of my presentation.  When I studied education in undergraduate, there is an opportunity for student teaching; however, the experience felt isolated and not inclusive of the whole teaching experience.  Co-facilitation allows me the opportunity to receive training, support and guidance before being independent in the field.  I will be more fully equipped to handle situations when I am teaching on my own through this organization because of the training through co-facilitation.  Co-facilitation can be a great way to train new employees and interns, as well as provide an effective way to conduct presentations.


  1. Karen co facilitating can be an enjoyable experience when done correctly. It seems as though you and your co facilitator discussed strategies for teaching simultaneously and worked out signs to give each other cues during the presentation. This was a great example of co facilitating. I have not yet had that experience during team teaching at my organization. I too looked forward to co facilitating groups for the added support, but support was nit what I received. Unfortunately I experienced quite the opposite during our co facilitation. The other facilitator will talk to other people while I was teaching. They will also just jump in while I am talking and stand all in the wrong places. Even when strategies were discussed prior to the facilitation of the group, somehow it all went out the window once the session began.
    Thanks for the post and the information you provided. I will use the techniques and share the same information with the other facilitator. Maybe this time it will stick, by reinforcing the information with concrete examples. I am glad to know that I can someday look forward to a much better experience for myself.

  2. I'm doing co-facilitation in my practicum too. So far I've been finding it a really rewarding experience. I like knowing that there is someone else who can jump in if I get in over my head. It's great to know that if I get a crazy question that I can't answer, I can look over and say "hey Miss So-and-So, what do you think about that?" It's given me a lot more confidence and allowed me to teach in a way that I might not have gotten to if I hadn't had a co-presenter. One thing that I still struggle with when co-presenting is transitions. We typically alternate activities and I find that I have a hard time transitioning between my activity and my co-presenter's. I end up saying "and now here's..." like I'm on a radio show and I'm announcing the sponsors.

    What I'm trying to do to work on it is make sure that I know what she's doing as well as what I'm doing and then make a logical transition sentence before reintroducing her. Yesterday's morning class worked out really well that way, but the afternoon was definitely not as smooth. I guess it's all a process.

    I think that, especially when teaching about sexuality, it is great to have a second presenter. It allows for more help during small activities, better classroom management, a second "expert" in case the questions go somewhere unexpected, and it can help if a student has a bad reaction to the subject matter. I can go out in the hall and make sure the person is okay while the lesson goes on as usual. Thanks for the tips, communication is always the key!

  3. Karen
    This was a great subject to discuss since many of us will at some point be working with others in the field or need support from fellow sexologists. I completely agree that good communication is needed. I currently co-teach with a woman who does not communicate well. She came in to my classroom with a negative perspective and an unwillingness to learn. It has been a headache trying to work with someone who is unwilling to listen to suggestions and seems to work against me and not with me. The lack of communication is clear with the students which reflects poorly on both of us. My co-teacher can never remember directions correctly, which confuses the students. The students can also tell she is unsure of herself and do not like her teaching style. As you can tell it has been a huge frustration for me and has completely ruined the co-facilitation for me. You handled the experience really nicely and worked with the other person in the room, while my experience has been about my co-teacher distracting students and interrupting me constantly during lessons. Perhaps my co-teacher could learn a lot from your experience and the correct way to work together in the classroom.

    Have you or anyone else run into co-facilitation issues?

  4. Karen, great idea for a posting as presentation of a lesson is just as important, if not more, than the content of the lesson. I have not yet had the opportunity to co-facilitate in an educational setting but have a feeling that might be the way my practicum will function when I begin it. Actually, I feel that would be a better way for me to instruct as I am a novice at it and could be tripping all over myself if I were left out there to do it myself. I, like Kelly, feel it would give me more confidence in my presentation. It seems to be quite beneficial beyond that aspect as you point out in your post, assuming the facilitators work well together and communicate with each other about various aspects of the lesson. My worry is that what if my co-facilitator and I do not work well together even after trying all the suggestions to improve our working relationship? What if it is just a personality problem and then I am stuck with them for the length of my practicum? This is also a concern for future educational endeavors and potential professional encounters but I will cross that bridge when I come to it and will focus now on my more immediate scenario. I am bothered by this possibility because I feel that if the relationship does not work well then the lesson will not be taught well and it will all be a wash not only for me but my students, and that is not fair to them. To ease my anxiety I will read those articles that you did about co-facilitation so I may have a better handle on the whole process from the beginning.

  5. This post made me take a step back and really think about co-facilitation in the field. Other than our class presentation for 625, 501, 643 and 626, I haven't had the chance to co-facilitate. While classes have given me the chance to see what this style of teaching can really do for a presentation, I know that the real thing out there in the real world is a whole new experience.

    However, you bring up some great points, especially that of transitioning and not adding anything while the other presenter speaks. Furthermore, I can understand were different personality/presentation styles can either complement one another or completely clash one another. From my personal class presentation experience as a co-facilitator, I have had that group presentation, where one person places themselves in charge and wants it done their way. This might be a helpful experience for learning to deal with a future boss, but what not the way it should have been handled as a group of four on equal ground. As anything, we get through it, and in the future when I do co-facilitate, I am coming back here to better explore those links!

  6. Great post. And thanks for emphasising the importance of communcation. I have worked in a number of places where I was co-faciliateting and it wasn't until recently that I had a good experience. It was during my practicum with a fellow widener student that I truly understood how important it is to work together on working together.

    I think you really hit on all the points I would have, but I just wanted to mention one more thing about working together. If you and a co-faciliator do not get along, or have had bad experiences in the past, don't let that stand in your way of future great co-facilitation. Communication is the way to get past all that. I recommend siting down with any partners and discussing working styles. This way you can find where there are differences and similarities, as well as strengths and weaknesses that each facilitator brings to the table. Co-facilitators should complement each other.

  7. Thanks so much for sharing the links for co-facilitation guidance. Unfortunately, the practicum that I am currently doing does not include co-facilitators. Most times, especially starting off I wish I had somebody to help me out with the lesson and presentation. I really like the idea of having two "experts" there to handle questions and help regulate the flow. One of my biggest worries as a solo facilitator in an adult human sexuality education class is that I will be bombarded by questions I cannot answer. This may never happen. I will probably only get, on average, one question each session from learners I can't provide a really excellent answer for. I really shouldn't worry about "bombardment" but I do and it gives me the slight shakes before I present. Sometimes, I just wish there were another facilitator in the room so I could have somebody to lean on for help when I needed it. When your starting off solo facilitating can be nerve racking but I like to think of it as experience in hyper-drive. Hopefully, someday soon I will get the chance to co-facilitate and gain knowledge about how to work well with another presenter.

  8. Like Boatwoman, I also did not get to experience any co-facilitation during my practicum even though I REALLY wanted to have a co-facilitator, at least in the beginning. However, I also found that by being thrown into facilitating alone, I was forced to just do it and learn from it, and not have the chance to "hide" behind someone else more experienced than myself, which I may have been tempted to do.
    I found your tips very helpful, especially since I will soon be doing a Sex 101 presentation on a college campus with a co-facilitator that I've never met. I'm comfortable with the content and activities, but I am nervous about working with someone I have never even had a real conversation with. I am now feeling inspired to contact her and possibly arrange a get-together where we can really figure out the roles that we will each have in our presentation, and will hopefully also get a better idea of each others' teaching styles. Great post!

  9. I love the fact that you picked the co-facilitation process! Thank you for recommendations to have a successful co-facilitation experience. Communication seems to be the most important issue to take into consideration. I remember learning from a psychologist and teacher to always be situated in a way that you can have eye contact with your co-facilitator to continue check in with them. For example, if you are arranged in a circle, never sit next to your co-facilitator, but in the opposite side. It is a small tip that has been very helpful for me.
    From an organization perspective, I know that co-facilitating could be more expensive (you are paying two people per class or presentation), but I agree with all of you that it is a very helpful and more effective way to educate and to form educators.
    In my work for example, we have made a point about co-facilitating every ongoing classes with youth. The rationale is that two people would be more effective when dealing not only with discipline problems, but also with students being triggered by the topic (teen dating violence).
    It is not easy, and there are always co-facilitation issues at the beginning, but being able to work through them gives us the opportunity to be better educators, and members of a team.
    As we grow in our field, I think it is important to start making the case for co-facilitation as a regular practice.

  10. I love co-facilitating! I have found that, given you have a good co-presenter, it can be so much fun! Like Kelly said, it is freeing to have a partner who has your back and, I find, it allows you to have a little more fun. Of course, that only works when everyone is working together. In my practicum I would often co-present with my boss and it did not work out well. There needs to be mutual respect and understanding that each of you has expertise and both are active and engaged members of the team.

  11. Hi!

    I loved this post because I think that co-facilitation is a really important skill in education. I was trained in under-grad to be a facilitator and my hardest class, hands down, was on in which we had to learn the ins-and-outs of co-presenting and working through decision making with groups. We used this wonderful book that I still use as a resource:

    One thing that I am having a hard time with now, being in education, is the idea of presenting alone. I think that co-facilitation helps me so much in my ability to interact with the class room and make sure my mind is keeping up with what is going on. When it is just me I have a hard time being able to read the crowd and get my information out in a way that is accessible. The pauses that co-facilitation allows for is really important for me, especially as a shy educator.

    Having said that, I think there are all kinds of issues that can come up with it, especially when we are working with someone who is used to teaching solo. I think that a lot of people feel that it is something that would come naturally (if one teacher is good, two teachers must be better!) and I think that it is important to figure out the skills and art of co-facilitating and where the strengths of both educators can shine. Additionally, I think that it can be an important model for people to see two people working cooperatively on a project, it can make the whole space feel more accessible and less hierarchical, depending on the group.

    Thanks for the post!