Student facilitators make our small-group, discussion-based approach possible. They create an open and safe environment for their fellow students to have collaborative, action-oriented discussions about addressing sexual violence and misconduct. This takes considerable emotional intelligence, leadership, and courage, and it requires time and energy. We greatly appreciate the contribution facilitators make to their campuses.
Below are some resources we provide to support our Informed-U facilitators:
+ Can I be a facilitator if I am a mandatory reporter?
If you are a mandatory reporter, you should discuss this question with your Title IX Coordinator before you lead your first session. If your responsibility is not waived during the session, it is important to let participants know prior to beginning the session tell them what sort of things you are required to report.
+ How do I prepare for leading an Informed-U learning session?
Review the Facilitator Checklist before leading sessions to make sure you are prepared.
+ Can I lead sessions with more than 8 students or fewer than 6?
The ideal group size is 6 to 8 participants, which allows for a diversity of opinion but is small enough for everyone to have plenty of opportunities to contribute. It’s okay to make exceptions under extenuating circumstances, but the experience tends to be most productive within the the 6 to 8 range. As facilitator, you will often have to use your best judgment, and this is one of those cases.
+ What is the difference between the Session Script and the Facilitator Guide?
The Session Script is for participants. They take turns reading from it out loud to the group. The Facilitator Guide is used only by the Facilitator. It contains all of the content contained in the Session Script, but also an introduction and Facilitator Tips.
+ Am I supposed to read all of the Facilitator Tips in the Facilitator Guide to the group?
The Facilitator Tips provide potential responses, answers to specific questions, and additional information. If the group touches on the content listed in the facilitator tips, you do not need to repeat it to the group. You can use your judgment as to whether or not using the facilitator tips will augment the discussion.
+ What do I do if the group gets behind schedule?
The best way to manage this is to be attentive to the timing throughout the session by referring to the timing cues in the Facilitator Guide. If you get behind schedule early, let the group know that there are a lot of other important topics to cover, and that they can come back to the current discussion if there is time left at the end.
+ What do I do if the the group has already discussed something that is covered later in the session?
The natural flow of conversation can occasionally lead the participants to discuss a topic mentioned later in the script. When this happens, you can let them know they will have the opportunity to talk about it later. However, if the participants appear to be very engaged and you don’t want to disrupt a productive conversation, you may skip that topic or question when you reach it later.
+ What do I do if the conversation gets derailed from the script?
If the conversation is productive, it is okay to allow it to continue for a bit as long as there is enough time to cover the remaining content. If the conversation is not relevant, it is a good idea to intervene and remind the group of the goals of the session. You will have to use your judgment in this case. The more sessions you lead, the better you will get at dealing with this.
+ What do I do if the group is moving through the discussion too fast? How do I encourage them to have a deeper conversation?
Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions, such as "Why do you think that is?" or "Does anyone have anything to add?". If the group doesn’t respond, don’t be too quick to fill the silence. Often, if you wait, someone will speak up. As the group delves further into the session and gets more comfortable with the topic and with each other, the conversation usually becomes richer and more natural.
+ What do I do if someone is dominating the conversation?
This is not always easy. You can shift control by asking other participants to read, calling on others by name and asking them what they think. You might also satisfy a dominating person’s desire to be heard by giving them a specific task such as passing out cards. As a last resort, you can ask the dominating person directly to allow others to contribute more.
+ What do I do if someone is not participating in the conversation?
Sometimes people aren’t that comfortable speaking in front of others, especially when it comes to sharing their own thoughts and opinions. This does not mean that they are not engaged. One way to help ease a quieter person into the discussion is by having them read from the card activities or discussion questions. However, if it is apparent that someone is clearly uncomfortable speaking, don’t put that person on the spot. You will have to use your judgment in this situation.
+ What do I do if the group keeps turning to me for answers?
As a general rule, if someone asks you a question, you should turn the question back to the group, to see if they can answer the question on their own. You might want to say "What does the rest of the group think?". Of course, it is okay to answer specific questions about the process of the session or campus resources. You might want to share personal experiences or opinions, just to get the conversation rolling, but do so sparingly.
+ What do I do if someone shares a traumatic experience with me and the group?
It takes a lot of strength to share painful experiences. When this happens, we recommend staying calm and acknowledging the participant’s courage for sharing their story. After you have done this, you can remind the group of the campus resources available to them and of any onsite resources available during the session itself.
+ What do I do if someone says something that I find offensive?
It is not your job to tell someone if their opinion is wrong or right, but rather encourage discussion and debate among the participants. Perhaps ask the group if any one else has a different opinion. However, if someone crosses the line and makes inappropriate comments, you may want to be direct and tell them that type of language won’t be tolerated. If someone becomes abusive, you should call a campus resource for help.
+ What do I do if a serious disagreement breaks out among the group?
Let the group know that there is value to hearing different perspectives and how important it is to have conversations such as these. If the disagreement becomes unproductive, however, it might be best to redirect the conversation back to the next discussion question.
+ What do I do if it is apparent that a student is feeling very uncomfortable?
Rather than single that person out in front of everyone, remind the group of the resources available to them and that they may step away at any time. If the student still appears upset and unable to leave, you might want to have the group take a 5 minute break and try to direct the student towards a helpful resource.
The Facilitator Checklist outlines all the responsibilities associated with delivering Informed-U learning sessions. We recommend that facilitators print off a copy to refer to when preparing for sessions.
Facilitation Best Practices
1. Keep the group focused. As a facilitator, it is important for you to keep the group focused. Try to avoid random or tangential conversations that lead the group away from the main learning objectives. You can refocus the group by asking the reader to reread the question you are currently on, rephrasing the question yourself, reminding the group of the time constraints of the session, and/or gently suggesting getting back on topic. If the group begins discussing something that is covered later in the session, let them know that they will have the chance to talk about that topic later.
2. Stay on schedule. There are time estimates listed at the beginning of each section in the Facilitator Guide. Use these as a general guide for how long to spend on each section to make sure you can cover all the content within the available time. You will have to use some judgment when deciding whether to move the group on to a new question or section. For example, if you think the group is having a productive conversation, you might want to let them take some extra time on a topic, but keep in mind how this will affect later sections. On the other hand, if you feel the group has already examined a question (or questions) in your earlier conversation, feel free to gloss over it. Throughout the Facilitator Guide there are indicators that suggest where you should be at different points in time.
3. Be an active listener. It is important for the participants to see your involvement and interest. If you appear to be uninterested in what participants are saying, or lose track of where the session is, participants will notice. You can demonstrate that you are actively listening by nodding your head as participants speak, maintaining eye contact with whoever is speaking, leaning forward in your seat, and asking follow-up questions. Sometimes participants share personal or emotional stories. When this happens, acknowledge the courage that it takes to do this. You might say things like, “thank you for sharing that powerful story” or, “I’m sorry you had that experience.” Keep in mind that group members may provide this affirmation themselves, and that is always preferable. However, we wouldn’t want an emotional contribution to be left unacknowledged.
4. Create positive energy. The participants will follow your lead when it comes to the energy level of the session. You can keep the group’s energy level high and positive by smiling often, showing interest in what each individual has to say, and using a positive tone in your voice. Keep in mind that the topic of this session is a sensitive one. Stay attuned to the participants’ attitudes and language and make sure that everyone is being respectful and being treated respectfully.
5. Ask follow-up questions. The session is more effective when you are able to ask follow-up questions that ask participants to give more detailed responses. Whenever possible, you should try to avoid letting participants give one-word answers or opinions. You can do this by asking questions such as
“Can you explain what you mean by that?”
“Why do you think that is the case?”
“What might be an example of that?”
“Where might that have an impact?”
“When do you think that would be so?”
“Does anyone else have something to add?”
6. Encourage—but don’t force—participation. It is important to keep everyone engaged. If someone seems reluctant to open up in the discussion, you can encourage participation in less threatening, less personal ways. For example, you may ask someone to read from the Session Script or Activity Cards. Try to get people to open up without putting them on the spot. It is also important to remember different people learn in different ways. Some people are quiet by nature, but this does not mean that they aren’t engaged. Another important factor in keeping the group engaged is ensuring that participants stay off their phones.
7. Don’t let a few people dominate the session. Some people may try to dominate a group. Try not to let this happen when possible by shifting control away from that individual to others in the group. You can shift control by asking other participants to read, calling on others by name and asking them what they think. You might also satisfy a dominating person’s desire to be heard by giving them a specific task such as passing out the Activity Cards. As a last resort, you can ask the dominating person directly to allow others to contribute more.
8. Make sure the group is doing most of the talking. It is important to get the group talking and driving the conversation. If the group is reluctant to talk, you might get them talking by asking follow-up questions or rephrasing questions. Another tip to try is silence. If you simply wait after a question is asked, most likely someone will start up the conversation after a few seconds. Encourage the group to engage with each other and not to look to you for answers or validation.
9. Offer support, not expertise. Participants might turn to you to clear up a debate or to answer specific questions. Remember that your job is to guide and support, not to be an expert on the topic. Often, instead of answering questions yourself, it’s better to turn them back to the group by saying something like, “how do the rest of you feel about this?” Alternatively, you can refer the group to experts on campus by way of the Resource Handout.