Five key program mechanisms contribute to our Facilitators’ professional development:
- initial training
- in-service training
- portfolio development
- session mapping and session plan feedback
- instructor and program assistant support
The initial training program for FSG Leaders comprises 15 hours of interactive, small-group activities. By the end of the training, students will be able to:
- build group consensus around appropriate and effective study techniques in the context of a specific learning environment
- distinguish between the roles of teaching assistant and study group facilitator
- manage the study group environment to facilitate collaborative learning
- exemplify study skills that will build students’ sense of self-efficacy
- articulate both their positive and negative experiences as learners in a university environment and explain what they have learned from these experiences
- design study session materials that utilize linear/sequential, visual/spatial and tactile/kinesthetic approaches
- facilitate lateral sharing/processing of course information and group ownership of that information by developing a non-hierarchical learning community
- use a scaffold approach to design study sessions that integrates the development of discipline-specific academic skills
- create a teaching portfolio that contains reflections of their experiences as facilitators and a curated collection of teaching materials
During the training, an emphasis is placed on experiential learning as the facilitators not only develop an understanding of the theoretical principles underpinning Supplemental Instruction, but are actively engaged in simulated FSG activities. During the training, the following modules are covered:
Module One: Discussion and Overview of the Peer Facilitated Study Group Program:
- Peer Facilitated Study Groups as the 'Anti-Tutorial'
- The Peer Facilitator as Role Model
- The 'Scaffold' Approach to Developing Self-Directed Study
- Skills Arc Scaffold
Module Two: Portfolio Development
- The purpose and function of a portfolio
- The main components of a Facilitator portfolio
- Examination of a number of model portfolios
Module Three: Individual Senior Facilitator Demonstrations of Mock FSG sessions
- Redirecting questions
- Participation in a mock FSG session, run by a senior facilitator
- Components of an FSG session
Module Four: Advertising Your FSG Sessions within the Course
- The role of the Facilitator in the Lecture
- What information needs to be shared with students?
- Scripting the advertisement presentation
- Practicing of presentations with audience feedback
Module Five: Application – Design Your Own Session
- The basic components of a session plan:
- identifying the skill that will be the focus of the session
- building a sequence of activities and matching activities to the different small-group configurations (pair vs. cluster vs. group)
- strategies to check for understanding
- completing the session plan template
- Group presentation of a designed session
- ‘What If?’ scenarios
- Discussion of Peer Facilitator guidelines and procedures
Once facilitators have begun delivering sessions, they are invited to in-service training which takes place at least once per term. In-service training sessions are led primarily by Program Assistants and focus on sharing good practice, reflection activities and further enhancing facilitation skills. These sessions build on the content from the initial training, introducing additional skills and techniques so that facilitators are constantly stretched and growing in their supplemental instruction practice.
From the initial training, facilitators are given guidance on how to develop an effective facilitator portfolio. A portfolio features material that showcases the variety of the facilitator's experiences and emphasizes the kinds of transferrable skills and competencies typically featured in a resume. The portfolio also encourages the development of a reflective process within each facilitator (a 'facilitating philosophy') that provides focus and shape to the portfolio.
- While each portfolio is unique and may vary in structure, it typically includes the following key components:
- ‘facilitating philosophy’ personal statement
- session plans
- training materials
- sample session resources (e.g., handouts, activity descriptions)
- session maps produced by the Program Assistants
- summary notes from meetings with staff and Program Assistants
- current/updated resume
- documentation of awards and certificates received
- examples of student work
- assessment activities
- evidence of professional development
The portfolio is viewed as a 'work in progress' and will continue to develop and evolve as facilitators grow in their practice of supplemental instruction techniques. Facilitators should view their portfolio as a ‘living resume’ that demonstrates the competencies gained, which include:
- reflective thinking
- knowledge application to everyday life
Facilitators are supported in their portfolio development through dedicated training time and ongoing coaching from RGASC staff and Program Assistants.
Session Mapping involves the documentation of an FSG session through a series of photographs, annotations and comments. Program Assistants create Session Maps in an effort to track the activities, movements and communication flow of the students throughout the session. The maps are then used to provide detailed feedback to the facilitators at the end of the session.
The annotated images in the maps supplement verbal feedback by showing facilitators exactly how students were engaging with the activities and with one another.
When facilitators have had their sessions mapped, the Program Assistants send them an electronic copy of the session map, which facilitators can then print and add to their portfolios.
Figure 1: Examples of key mapping annotations.
Figure 2: Student positioning and the flow of student interaction and communication is recorded in a photographic image and in graphical form.
Facilitators are asked to email their session plans to their Program Assistant before the session so feedback can be given before the session commences. Feedback on the session plans can help the facilitators evaluate and, if necessary, revise their facilitation. In addition, the session plans help the Program Assistants to provide high quality feedback when mapping. Session plans can also be used to show course instructors what happens in the sessions.
Figure 3: Session Plan Template.
Facilitators are encouraged to maintain ongoing communication with course instructors. They may provide feedback on how the sessions are going, what areas of the course students are finding most challenging and how many students are attending FSGs (although the names of the students’ attending are not disclosed).
This ongoing dialogue allows the course instructors to make suggestions on how to approach key concepts and the types of activities the students may find beneficial.
Through these conversations, facilitators learn to gather a wider perspective on how to approach the planning of their sessions and develop a deeper conceptual understanding of how to approach course content.
Program Assistants are senior facilitators who fulfill administrative, supervisory and coaching responsibilities in the FSG program.
Each Program Assistant is responsible for a cluster of FSGs and they directly oversee the facilitators who run those FSGs.
The Program Assistants use their experience as senior FSG Leaders to provide a key connection point for ongoing facilitator coaching and mentoring. Specifically, they support the facilitators’ professional development in the following ways:
- involvement in initial facilitator training
- leading in-service facilitator training
- observing and mapping FSG sessions
- providing ongoing feedback on FSG sessions
- modelling good practice in sessions and in lecture advertisements
- reviewing and providing feedback on session plans
- serving as a first point of contact regarding in-session concerns
- advising facilitators on their portfolio development