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Common Challenges for the Facilitator


Eliciting Teacher Interest and Enthusiasm

Start-up begins by soliciting buy-in. This requires an ability on the part of the facilitator to motivate and ignite interest. However, at this stage a facilitator also needs to guard against overselling and over promising and also needs to be firm about the prerequisites. A candid statement needs to be made at the onset that this is only one of many approaches that teachers and administrators can use to leverage innovation.

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Start Up

Mobilizing the Team

Facilitators take major responsibility for mobilizing or "jump-starting" the team. They need to build the type of rapport that will enable the group to move forward.

One of the most critical challenges facing a facilitator is to begin a process of team building. They need to help the team build productive and respectful working relationships. Facilitators need to model behaviors that show respect for individuals and diverse ideas, establish group norms of acceptable behavior, and use strategies that encourage contributions from all members.

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Curriculum Design

Intervening to Strengthen the Unit

During curriculum design, the facilitator oversees and manages the curriculum design process to ensure that teachers experience a sense of accomplishment. To be successful, the facilitator must:

  • Keep the big picture in focus.
  • Keep teachers from feeling overwhelmed by thinking simultaneously about desired goals, teaching activities, and ongoing assessment.
  • Allow for one step to unfold after another (e.g., brainstorming activities, setting criteria for selecting activities, applying criteria, etc.).
  • Encourage the team to revisit an earlier step.
  • Pace the process so that there will be a sense of accomplishment at the end of the institute.
  • Make sure that all the agreed upon plans are documented.
  • Know when to introduce a new idea or related ideas (e.g., when to bring up assessment).

The facilitator also needs to ensure that the unit is strong‹that it has a good generative theme, strong overarching concepts that relate to the important ideas of the theme, good activities that promote inquiry, built-in assessment, and varied ways for students to convey what they have learned though written products and exhibitions.

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Help the Team Keep a Positive Attitude

Facilitators must help the team stay positive and productive. During curriculum implementation, the facilitator can assist teachers by making sure the team meets regularly (usually during common planning time and/or before or after school) to:

  • Review and refine past plans prior to implementation
  • Firm up logistics (e.g., which periods will students watch the movie)
  • Check on follow-through (e.g., arranging for a field trip or speaker)
  • Discuss student performance: Who is succeeding? Who is having difficulty? Why?
  • Deepen, expand, and revise plans as needed when evidence indicates that students are not being successful
  • Deal with team dynamics and help the team work through any issues
  • Identify needed areas of organizational support (e.g., access to computer lab, money for a field trip, extra time from librarian) and plan accordingly

To address these topics, the facilitator is responsibile for: scheduling team meetings; setting the agendas; making sure past plans are brought to the meetings; inviting others as needed; and gathering data about student performance though observations in the classroom, interviews, and collection of student work.

Once in the throes of implementation, frustrations, unresolved issues, and tensions existing between individuals naturally surface. As a diagnostician, the facilitator helps identify and sort the issues; and as a negotiator, the facilitator helps the team resolve them.

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Understand the Link Between Teaching and Learning

Ensuring student accountability is a major concern during curriculum implementation. Students need to understand what is required of each phase, how one phase relates to another, where they are at any time in the process, and how the I-Search process links to product development. The facilitator helps teachers better understand the direct link between teaching and learning by asking the teachers to make the four phases of the I-Search process explicit.

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Push for Ongoing Assessment

Facilitators need to keep pushing teachers to assess student performance against a set criteria determined by the team. Furthermore, if ongoing assessment reveals that students are running into difficulty, then facilitators must help teachers develop specific strategies to help the students.

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Refrain from Evaluation

After the unit ends, the facilitator guides the team to reflect on the following questions:

  • How well did students succeed?
  • What factors affected student success?
  • How did teachers grow individually as professionals?
  • How well did the team collaborate?

The facilitator helps teachers gather information to answer these questions, analyze the information, and make recommendations for ways they can deepen and/or improve the design and implementation of the unit. The greatest challenge the facilitator faces is to refrain from being evaluative to allow teachers to identify their own strengths and weaknesses.

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Education Development Center, Inc.
55 Chapel Street
Newton, Massachusetts 02458-1060
Phone: 617-969-7100 x 2426
Fax: 617-969-3440

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