Module 1

Understanding Facilitation

This module makes the case for developing facilitation skills. Whenever organizations and community groups come together to plan, solve problems, or make decisions, a good facilitator can ensure the process will be effective and efficient. This module explains the role of a facilitator, describes the 10 principles of effective facilitation, relates how the characteristics of good coaching tools and strategies can be effective for facilitators, and provides facilitators with tools to lead change.


  1. Stages and Tasks of Facilitation
  2. Clarifying Your Role
  3. Sample Facilitator Position Description
  4. Ten Principles of Effective Facilitation
  5. Facilitation Observation Tool
  6. Evaluating Yourself as a Facilitator
  7. Coaching
  8. Reflection Tool: Improving Your Coaching
  9. Reflection Tool: Planning Coaching Strategies
  10. Reflection Tool: Reaching Your Coaching Goals
  11. GAPS Model: A Tool for Coaching
  12. Leading Change
  13. Leading Change: Attitude Assessment
  14. Leading Change: The Eight-Stage Change Process
  15. Finding More Resources
  16. U-FACILITATE and University of Illinois Extension Programming


Facilitation Roles

The dictionary defines facilitate as “to free from difficulties or obstacles; make easier, aid, assist.” That is the role of the facilitator—to design and manage a process that helps a group accomplish its work while minimizing problems within the group.

There are several stages of facilitation and tasks that must be accomplished during each stage. These include pre-work, opening the meeting or event, facilitating the meeting, closing the meeting, and following up with planners.

Facilitating a meeting is different from leading a monthly organizational meeting using parliamentary procedure. Clarifying your role is very important. The facilitator is a neutral guide who takes an active role in guiding the process while adhering to principles of effective facilitation. Such a neutral person is usually someone from outside the group and may show no vested interest in the out come. A good facilitator guides the process.

Principles of Effective Facilitation

The facilitator and group members share responsibility for progressing toward the goals of the group. The facilitator serves as a guide to the group. Key principles of quality facilitation include believing that groups can make good decisions, ensuring participation, convening people as a neutral guide, sharing a sense of group goals, using effective processes, utilizing diversity and wisdom, improving continuously, working together with trust, progressing toward goals, and learning from experiences.

One excellent way to improve skills as a facilitator is to observe another facilitator in action. An observation worksheet that lists the key facilitation elements for rating is included in this section.

Evaluating yourself as a facilitator is important to continuous improvement of the group and the facilitator. Several questions are included that may be used verbally or prepared as a worksheet for group input.


Facilitators often coach others to enhance their participation in the work that needs to be done. A coach works one-on-one with individuals and with the group to draw on individual strengths and develop the competencies they will need to be effective in the future. Coaches provide both support and challenge. More about coaching, and worksheets for reflection, are included in this section. The GAPS model (a tool for coaching) is included as a worksheet. It helps a facilitator become aware of the person’s goals, the person’s abilities, how others see the person, and what others expect of the person.

Leading Change

A common role of facilitators is that of “change agent.” Understanding the nature of leading change can help a facilitator become more helpful to groups. This is especially important if you are invited to work with a change initiative during tense times. Worksheets are included in this section to assess your group’s present attitudes and facilitate a change using an eight-step process.

To order the seven-module set, please visit www.pubsplus.uiuc.edu or call 800-345-6087. For more information about the U-Facilitate program, contact Cindy Erickson (cericksn@uiuc.edu, 217-244-0433).