For Practicing Facilitation of Creative Learning Experiences
This activity is designed for library staff or other educators who would like to practice their facilitation skills in a group — beginners encouraged!
One key component in all of our PLIX activities is the role of the facilitator. We see becoming a good facilitator as a process, one that requires constant practice and opportunities for reflection.
In support of this view, we’ve developed a variety of professional development activities that are designed to help beginners get started building out their personal facilitation practice. One such activity is this personas activity for practicing facilitation of creative learning experiences.
The purpose of this activity is two-fold:
- To practice facilitating an activity while not feeling like an expert
- To build empathy among facilitators for learners who may approach an activity differently than they would
In October 2019, we collaborated with the Akron-Summit Public Library system in Ohio to run a two-day workshop for 50 public library professionals from the region. As part of this workshop, we ran this role playing personas activity, and it was met with a warm reaction from the participants. During a reflection, one librarian participant said:
“I think one of the biggest struggles that some of my co-librarians have is feeling like they need to be the expert on everything they chose to do a program around… the facilitation approach really helps to encourage librarians to turn that around and instead of being the expert you are really just holding the space open for others to explore… Those role playing exercises we used in Akron would help give librarians a script when the anxiety of not being an expert hits.” — Youth Services Librarian
How to Run This Activity in Person
This activity is ideal for groups of around ten, with one to two designated “facilitators” and eight or so designated “participants." The facilitator(s) should be given the supplies to run the PLIX Paper Circuits activity and a pre-crafted workshop prompt (e.g., "make a light-up greeting card”). The participants should each be given one of the persona cards below. The group will then spend ~30 minutes running the paper circuits activity.
Here is a sample agenda for a one-hour session:
- 15 minutes: Introduction to activity; set-up and assign roles.
- 30 minutes: Practice facilitation!
- 10 minutes: Dedicated reflection time in small groups of two to three.
- 5 minutes: Final thoughts (full-group share-out).
When introducing this activity to your group, it’s useful to encourage folks not to turn their persona into a caricature, but rather to try to be themselves as much as possible while also following the guidance from the persona card. We also like to remind participants who are role playing that their goal isn’t to “stump” the facilitator, but rather to help create an environment for practice.
Persona Activity Instructions and Cards
These personas were crafted very thoughtfully, and based on PLIX Team experiences facilitating and participating in creative STEAM activities. We understand personas are not monoliths, so we made sure to design our personas more as guides. We also avoided making personas that were strictly “positive” or “negative,” but rather based on traits, comfort levels, and approaches to learning (which can all be expressed in many different ways). The personas also all strive for a path toward resolution: none of them are designed to simply “stump” a facilitator. We’ve also included a few duplicate cards to use in case you have a larger group.
Download here →
Tips for Running This Activity
- Encourage participants not to turn their persona into a caricature, but rather to try to be themselves as much as possible.
- Remind participants that their goal isn’t to “stump” the facilitator, but rather to help create an environment for practice.
- Leave time for group reflection to wrap-up the activity.
Personas Role Play Online
Sometimes, whether there's a pandemic raging or you just want to minimize the amount of travel people undertake for professional development gatherings, you may want to do this activity using an online videoconference. For more details about how the PLIX team pulled this off as an online-only experience in November 2020, read on.
Personas Role Play Asynchronously
This version was originally created for our first-ever online course Facilitating Creative Learning. We wanted to transform two of the best elements of the Personas activity—imagining oneself in the shoes of a participant and having time to formulate responses to common participant challenges—into an experience that one could enjoy on one’s one schedule. Library workers are very busy, and to get critical mass for a few live, online sessions would take a lot of coordination among many dozens, perhaps hundreds, of course registrants. This asynchronous version is something of a Choose Your Own Facilitation Technique.
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