CONTRASTING FACILITATION STYLES FOR SUSTAINABLE LEARNING
, C. Brandt2
1Abu Dhabi University (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
2Petroleum Institute (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
This paper examines how a process of facilitation can encourage and support the spread of learning throughout the organization. Using contrasting styles of facilitation with senior government employees on a management development action learning program, the extent of learning application to the wider organization was reviewed and recommendations made that could influence the learning process such that it could be considered sustainable. These can enable sustainable factors to be embedded in future learning strategies to achieve greater impact and stakeholder value in terms of moving learning from being primarily an individual process to one of more collective and lasting benefit. Facilitation style was viewed as a range from directive (initiating discussion) to non-directive (group members initiating discussion) and feedback was also viewed as a range with prescriptive feedback providing an effect on interpersonal behaviour and diagnostic feedback seeking questions or rationale for interpersonal interactions. Sustainable learning is derived from a social constructivist theory where the relational view of learning is grounded in a collective sense making and the learning process is facilitated by reflection, critical reflection and ultimately critical self-reflection. Learning is not considered to be dependent upon teaching skills or scholarly knowledge but dependent upon the attitudinal qualities in the personal relationship between the facilitator and learner. Using qualitative research methods, program participants were divided into two groups with the facilitator using a directive diagnostic style with one group and a non-directive diagnostic style with the other group. Their experiences in relation to addressing real-time management problems provided a variety of data that enabled identification of the extent of learning application or transfer that had occurred. For both groups the sustainable learning processes that were perceived as being helpful or contributing to the transfer of learning could be referred to as ‘relationship’ or ‘people’ variables rather than structural organization issues. It was considered likely that the passing on of expertise and embedding it into the routines of the organization as sustainable learning could be more people-dependent than structure-dependent.