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PAL Central: Facilitation Techniques

An online hub of guidance and resources for our PAL Leaders and their Level 4 students.

Facilitation Techniques

You will find even more ideas and inspiration on the 'Activity Ideas and Strategies' page of this guide.

Think, Pair, Share

 

  • Group members work on a task individually 
  • They then share their thoughts with a partner
  • The partners then form a group with other partners and discuss the task collectively
  • The goal of a Think/Pair/Share is allow participants time to think BEFORE they discuss as well as to gain different perspectives and ideas from each other
  • TOP TIP: When doing a Think/Pair/ Share, give participants a specific amount of time (30 seconds, five minutes, etc.) for the “think” portion

Round Robin

 

A 'round-robin' is something that is started by one person and is successively added to by others. 

This is a great technique for peer review and critique. One member of the group thinks of an idea or has a piece of work. That idea or piece of work is then passed around the group for other group members to add to it, creating lots more ideas from the original idea or finishing with a piece of work that has suggestions for improvements and editing.

TOP TIP: If using a piece of work, ensure that this is only a copy/draft and not the original piece. Also be aware for plagiarism!

Redirecting Questions

Redirecting questions is fairly simple to understand but difficult to use in practice, without context. The aim of this process is to engage student to student interaction in your sessions, finding out what each individual thinks, rather than just handing them the answers.

This is based on the concept that we learn better when we have to explain it to someone else. It can be a natural reaction to answer a question we’ve been asked, but redirecting questions back to the group can help the leader avoid this tendency and help everyone in the group engage.

An example:

Student to Leader: Who came up with this theory?

Leader: Does anyone else know the answer to this?

TOP TIP: Rather than answer this question quickly, redirect it back to the group, this helps you to stop PAL from becoming a Question-Answer session.

Scenarios

Scenarios can be used to gain different perspectives on subjects, but also serve as a good facilitation tool as you are providing context and getting your students to do the thinking! We used scenarios in your PAL facilitation course to consider challenging situations, boundary setting, cultural differences or working with different learning styles.

This activity can be tailored for a subject of your choice, academic or non-academic (it could be related to housing/adjusting to university life). This does require some preparation.

  • Working in tables, students are given laminated scenarios / situations - preferably different scenarios
  • Working together, they have to discuss how they would deal with that kind of scenario
  • Then feed back as a whole group as to what each table came up with - ask if anyone has any additional comments from other groups

This is a 'jigsaw' technique, where different groups are assigned different smaller topics and inform each other's knowledge when feeding back.

Jigsaw

  • The Jigsaw Technique works by breaking a larger piece of work down into smaller, more manageable chunks
  • The whole group is broken into smaller groups and each group 'provides a piece of the puzzle'
  • Each small group is assigned an aspect of the same problem, question, or issue and break away to discuss this as a group
  • All groups come back together and report back on their section of discussion, providing a complete picture for everyone
  • TOP TIP: When using a Jigsaw make sure you carefully define the limits of what each group will contribute to the topic that is being explored

Buzz Groups

 

  • Buzz groups are formed using groups of participants
  • Students are divided into smaller groups to discuss the same topic
  • After discussing the assigned topic the cluster may report their findings to the large group
  • If possible, ensure each group is provided a flip chart or a space on the whiteboard to record the important points of their discussion
  • TOP TIP: This can be a good opportunity to mix up your groups and encourage students to work with different people

Wait Time

Wait-Time is the time between a question asked by you and the next thing that happens – a student responding or you talking again.

There are two types of wait-time:

  • The time the leader waits after asking a question
  • The time the leader waits a student responds

Wait-Time is an important aspect of successful PAL sessions. According to research, the quality and quantity of students’ responses increases greatly if the teacher (in this case, PAL leader) leave at least 3 seconds of wait-time.

If PAL leaders avoid the natural reaction of jumping in too quickly to answer or rephrase the question, student learning improves.

TOP TIP: The more wait-time there is, the more opportunity the student has to process information more deeply.

Spiderweb Activity

This activity was used in your PAL facilitation course to identify and discuss any concerns/worries you had about becoming a PAL Leader. However this could be a great activity to use in the first few weeks of term, or when your students are approaching their first assignment.

There will be a lot of uncertainty and challenge, so find out from your students what they are concerned about, encourage them to support and advise each other and take note to help plan your future PAL sessions.

  • Ask students to think of a couple of things they are concerned about, or, challenging situations they might face
  • Instruct them to stand in a circle with a ball of string. One person starts by saying what their concern/worry/challenging situation is
  • They then hold on to the string and throw it across the circle to someone else who does the same. This will form a 'web of problems'
  • Then work backwards and as a group discuss to solve the problems or give suggestions
  • Check each person feels their problem is resolved before moving on to the next person

Roleplay

Roleplay doesn't have to be as cringey as everyone thinks it is! If you have a very creative/imaginative PAL group, this technique could work well. In fact, it can be an entertaining and interactive way of conveying information and can be lighthearted in an informal environment such as a PAL session. Make sure your students have some materials they can refer to for this (unit guides, programme handbooks, assignment breakdowns etc.) There are some ideas for roleplay styles below, but think of your own too! Get creative with this and have a laugh! 

  • Split the whole group into groups and assign each one a different task/topic/subject they will present in a roleplay format

  • Each group picks at random the style in which they need to present their stage of a PAL session from the following:
    • TV advert
    • News show
    • Jeremy Kyle style chat show
    • Judge Rinder/Judge Judy courtroom show
    • Reality TV show (e.g. The Only Way Is Essex, Big Brother etc.)

KWL

 

KWL stands for:

  • ‘what I now Know’,
  • ‘what I Want to know’ 
  • ‘what I have Learned’

This is a good technique to establish what students know, what they want and still need to cover and at the end, what they have learned. These should be split into a grid and be completed as a whole group with students contributing to each column.

The first two sections can be completed at the beginning of a session to ascertain where the students are in their learning. The 'L' section should be completed at the end of the session.

TOP TIP: Always make sure to revisit the 'Learned' section to reflect on what the students have gained from the session.

Using a Grid

 

Using a grid can be a good technique for providing your group with a structure to help formulate their thoughts and ideas.

Grids can be used for a number of themes such as:

  • Agree/disagree
  • Correct/Incorrect
  • Similiar/different
  • Good/bad

We've used this in training before to define between a facilitator and a teacher, so this can be adapted to use in your sessions. All you need to do is help generate the discussion. Provide your group with points that they then need to categorise using the grid, or ask them to think of their own ideas and ask where they think they sit within the grid. Then discuss each point and see if everyone agreeds.

TOP TIP: Use post it notes or a flipchart board for this, and encourage your students to take pictures of the finished grid containing all of the thoughts.

Posters

Posters can be a fun way to convey information/what you've learned, plus they are interactive and give you a chance to get creative! We used posters during training to get you thinking about PAL, it's benefits and how to promote it to your students. However, posters can be used for a variety of different subjects - think about what your students want to find out about. Encourage them to get their phones out and research their subject. 

  • In their tables, ask students to generate a  promotional poster that must include:
    • A tagline
    • A logo

  • Each group needs to present a 1-2 minute explanation that accompanies their poster of the thoughts behind their choices
  • All members of the group need to contribute
  • Take pictures of the posters once they are finished to share and save for future reference
  • Take a vote on the best poster and give prizes to the winners

Checking Understanding

Strategies that you use in your PAL sessions should be used to promote student interaction, both with you and the other students. However, this doesn’t mean they will automatically gain understanding from these interactions. You need to check their understanding to make sure they’ve learned the content that they requested and you prepared for the session.

The most common way of asking if a student understand is asking a yes or no question. This not always effective as some students may be embarrassed to admit they still don’t understand a concept, especially if you just spent considerable time going over it. 

TOP TIP: Use a TEL tool, such as Mentimeter or Padlet to find out what they don’t understand. This can encourage students to open up as it allows anonymous responses.