Wonder #7: What Does it Mean to be a Community Facilitator?

All of the planning, and logistics, and goal setting aside, I also wondered what it meant to be a facilitator of a math community? How is this different from being a facilitator of stand-alone professional development opportunities? Upon reflection, it comes down to the roles and mindset that I enter into every conversation with. It is about being responsible for the ongoing learning of a group of mathematics teachers. As a community facilitator you need to listen deeply, respond to needs, and share ownership of the results of professional learning with community members.

Roles of a Community Facilitator

Different from many forms of Roles of facilitatorcollaborative learning groups, a mathematics learning community has a facilitator who has the ability
to oversee the work of the community. The roles held by a community facilitator fall into three categories. While all are important to some degree, the amount of time and energy spent by a facilitator on each area is determined by what community members require. The balance is dependent upon the size, needs, and requests of community members. An example of the distribution of a facilitator’s time and energy is:

Facilitator Role Distribution


Mindset of a Community Facilitator

The mindset and action of a community facilitator is a blend of cognitive coaching, partnership learning, and crucial conversations. Understanding which type of conversation you are in and being able to move flexibly from one to another is an important skill for community facilitators. A barrier to entering professional learning relationships is often how to enter into one. JimKnight (2011) identifies “5 Simple Truths About Helping”:

   People often don’t know that they need help.
   If people feel “one down”, they will resist help.
   Criticism is taken personally.
   If someone else does all the thinking for them, people will resist.
   People aren’t motivated by other people’s goals.

Partnership Learning

As a community facilitator, the type of conversation you will most often find yourself in is partnership learning. Knight’s Partnership Learning Approach (2011) is a collaborative conversation between professionals. Unlike cognitive coaching, partners both contribute to the goals and outcome of the conversation.

“You can get to an understanding of the partnership approach by considering how you would answer a simple question: “If someone was taking with you about your work, how would you like them to relate to you?” Chances are you would want them to treat you as an equal, to respect your knowledge enough to let you make some decisions about how you do your work. You would probably also want them to ask your opinion and listen to your voice, to talk with you in a way that encouraged through and dialogue about your real-life experience. If they also demonstrated that they expected to learn from you, it would probably make it all the more likely that you would listen to them.” (Knight, p. 28)

Partnership Learning addresses mindset of both coach and community member, as well as the interaction between them which leads to a sense of partnership.

Other types of conversatioQuestions Askedns are important to building trust between facilitator and community members. These are coaching and crucial conversations. Both involve the use of questions, the difference is who questions are directed towards. In a coaching conversation, questions are asked of another person in order for them to deepen their reflection, make connections, and make decisions for themselves. Coaching questions can support a community member in driving their own professional judgement and decision-making. In a crucial conversation, questions are asked of oneself to try to determine our own motivation, goals, and hoped for results of a difficult conversation. Crucial conversation questions can ensure that we make a conversation safe for a community member in order to openly communicate about something we feel strongly about.


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