Tools to Support Group Facilitation
By Roberta Neault, PhD, Cassie Saunders, BA, and Fiona Glendinning, BA, Life Strategies Ltd.
It can be tempting for career practitioners and counsellors working with groups to find a comfortable style and stick with it. However, adding new activities, resources, and techniques to your toolkits can help to keep both you and your group members interested and engaged. Here are a few that the Life Strategies team finds particularly helpful, with information about where to order them. If you’re looking for professional development as a group facilitator, we’ve added a few opportunities here as well.
Whether as icebreakers, energizers, or experiential learning activities, we like to incorporate games into our workshops. Bingo is an old favourite (original source unknown), widely used by many trainers as an icebreaker – in our description of it below, we focus on how to customize it to match your workshop theme. Survivor was originally developed at the request of a corporate client, when the popular TV series was in its first season. This, too, easily lends itself to customization. Barnga is one of Thiagi’s experiential games; we like to use it to demonstrate cross cultural issues, especially those involving language challenges and misunderstood rules or expectations. The first two are informal tools (i.e., there is no source for purchasing them). We provide a Website for ordering Barnga, should you choose to add it to your toolkits.
Bingo is a great choice to use with groups as almost everyone is familiar with it and if not, it doesn’t take very long to explain it. You’ll need to replace the numbered squares with descriptions (labelling one FREE in the centre); we use this as an autograph game, usually at the beginning of a course or workshop to help participants interact with each other. The goal is to collect signatures from different members of the group, a different signature for each characteristic on the Bingo card. The first participant to complete either a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line wins.
It’s very easy to customize Bingo by simply adjusting the descriptions on the squares to reflect the workshop topic. For example, if you’re doing a workshop on work-life balance you may want to include “Sleeps more than 8 hours a night” as one description. For a workshop on career planning, you might want to list various occupations (e.g., “have worked in a restaurant”) to begin to identify expertise within the group as a foundation for informational interviewing practice.
In Survivor, the facilitator divides participants into groups and asks each group to identify or collect 10 essential survival items for a specific theme; to customize this activity, select a theme that matches your group focus (e.g., 10 items to avoid burnout; 10 items for a successful job search; 10 items for a healthy team). Similar to a scavenger hunt, participants need to collect tangible items to represent their ideas – our all time favourite was in Thailand when one group had the hotel gardener cut down a piece of bamboo to demonstrate “flexibility”! Participants can get very creative with this activity – we usually provide some prop bags to get them started but participants also go through their backpacks, the training room, and beyond to find the perfect item. To debrief, have each group show their items and describe their relevance to survival; although there will generally be overlap, a summary activity can be to flip chart a “super-potion” that includes all of the survival items identified by each of the groups.
Barnga: A Simulation Game on Cultural Clashes
Thiagi (www.thiagi.com/barnga/) developed Barnga to illustrate and examine cross-cultural communication challenges. The game requires instruction sheets (provided in the Barnga package) and one deck of cards per group. Players are not allowed to speak to each other (simulating how lacking a shared language can contribute to cultural confusion and conflict). Through a series of events, individuals move from one group to another and learn how slight differences in “how things are done around here” can create chaos without cross-cultural sensitivity.
Assessments and Resources
Many assessment tools lend themselves to experiential group activities. To keep this article brief, we’ll limit our discussion to two that are most requested by our clients: Personality Dimensions® and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI).
Personality Dimensions® Toolkits for Trainers
Personality Dimensions brings temperament and type theory to life through a preliminary assessment (checklists and card sorts) and a series of experiential activities. Certified Personality Dimensions facilitators can use the toolkit series to quickly customize workshops for six different themes: Career Building; Learning Styles and Strategies; Team Building; Conflict Management; Leadership Development; and Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service. Each toolkit includes a workshop outline, overview, and handouts for a basic Personality Dimensions workshop, a PowerPoint presentation, and 15 – 16 themed workshop activities with all necessary handouts.
Toolkits are available from Career/Life Skills Resources (direct link – http://career-lifeskills.com/personality-dimensions-6/toolkits-110/?zenid=01d2cf30bd9189206cbea5e3b55fc244). If you’re not a certified Personality Dimensions facilitator and would like some more information about the Personality Dimensions tool see www.personalitydimensions.com.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI)
The MBTI is another assessment of personal style and preferences, based on a comprehensive psychometric assessment tool. To create rich discussions and experiential learning opportunities within groups, we illustrate differences along each of the bipolar scales (e.g., dividing the group into those with Extraverted or Introverted preferences, Sensing vs. Intuition, Thinking vs. Feeling, and Judging vs. Perceiving).
For each scale, we provide a question or activity for the sub-groups to work on together (e.g., for Extraversion/Introversion, we may ask which daily activities participants find most energizing and most draining). Groups summarize their responses to report back to the other group and, as facilitators, we note differences that we observed between the groups (e.g., Extraverts may have been quicker to get started, already talking together as they were walking toward their group’s meeting place; Introverts may have been quietly reflective as they got started). For more information about the MBTI, see www.psychometrics.com.
We use several books in our group courses for counsellors and career practitioners. Here we’ve listed two that you might find particularly helpful – although the second one is a counselling textbook (i.e., not specific to career counselling or career practitioners), it provides good information about group process and sample outlines for structuring a variety of groups.
Active Engagement: Enhancing the Career Counselling Process by Norman Amundson
Although Active Engagement is written for counsellors working with individuals as well as groups, this book provides an abundance of practical tips for getting your groups “actively engaged” in experiential learning. It offers a good mix of theory and techniques and provides case examples that clearly illustrate how employment counsellors have applied their learning. The book is published by Ergon Communications and is available through Life Strategies.
Approaches to Group Work: A Handbook for Practitioners by David Capuzzi
Written for counsellors, this book provides detailed outlines for a variety of topical groups for children, teens, and adults. Although the theme isn’t specific to career development, much of the information about group process and structure is applicable to career practitioners facilitating groups and the outlines could be easily customized for career-related topics. This book can be ordered online through Chapters (www.chapters.indigo.ca ).
If you are looking for training as a group facilitator, here are a few e-learning options accessible wherever you happen to live or work. If the scheduled courses don’t work for you, contact email@example.com to discuss customized training (online or in-person) for your team.
Group Facilitation Strategies
This course, part of the Career Management Professional program, introduces strategies for effective group facilitation for career practitioners. Topics include: stages of group development, differences between facilitating small and large groups, and strategies for effectively managing challenging situations. The course runs for two weeks online, requires approximately 20 hours of your time, and is pre-approved for Continuing Education Units by the Canadian Counselling Association and the Vocational Rehabilitation Association.
Completing Personality Dimensions (PD) Facilitator Training (Level 1) will qualify you to purchase materials and facilitate PD workshops for basic awareness of individual similarities and differences or topical workshops on such themes as teambuilding and career planning. If you are already a True Colors® facilitator or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® Qualified User, you can add PD to your toolkit by completing a short Personality Dimensions Bridging workshop. If you already have extensive experience as a PD Facilitator, you might be ready for the next step (i.e., to become a Facilitator Trainers) – however, this option is not currently available online. To register for Level 1 or Bridging Training, in an e-learning format.
Developed by Janis Foord-Kirk, Survivability facilitator training qualifies you to use the Survivability model (including worksheets and DVD) in groups. The Survivability model assesses and explores such essential employability skills as technical literacy, positive thinking, self-marketing/promotion, communication, information gathering and management, active learning, creativity/applied resourcefulness, consultative problem solving, entrepreneurial initiative, and self-management. Facilitator training is currently available in person or online for groups of 10 or more interested participants. If your team is interested in becoming qualified to use this model, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
This course is part of the Masters of Arts in Counselling Psychology program at Yorkville University. Fully online, it uses a mixed-mode approach to teaching facilitation skills. Students see counselling in action on a DVD, actively participate in discussion forums, and both facilitate and participate in e-groups throughout the course. Although the focus is not specific to career practitioners, this course provides a comprehensive introduction to facilitating groups for children, teens, and adults. To register, visit: http://www.yorkvilleu.ca/programs/faculty-of-behavioural-sciences/master-of-arts-in-counselling-psychology/?gclid=CPvc_O_4-ZUCFQL8iAodkmgNFQ
We hope that this brief overview of games, assessments and resources, books, and professional development opportunities sparks your excitement about working with groups and equips you with a starting place for adding to your professional toolkits. As all groups take on a life of their own, we’ve found that the more options we have for them, the better!
Dr. Roberta Neault, president of Life Strategies Ltd., is a counsellor, counsellor-educator, workshop facilitator, Personality Dimensions® Master Trainer, and corporate trainer/consultant – in all of these roles, she facilitates groups, both online and face-to-face.
Cassie Saunders, Program Assistant, and Fiona Glendinning, Project Coordinator for the Life Strategies team, develop curriculum and prepare workshops for both e-learning and face-to-face initiatives. Both Fiona and Cassie are certified Personality Dimensions® Level 1 Facilitators. You can reach Roberta, Cassie, or Fiona at: email@example.com