The (Frequently) Overlooked Differences Between Training and Facilitation

11th September 2020

When you step into the field of corporate education, you may often find yourself bombarded with a slew of technical jargons that usually sound the same from a distance, but tends to carry a different meaning once you delve deep into exploring them. The terms ‘training’ and ‘facilitation’ are two such examples. Trainer training programs for new trainers can play a crucial role in explaining these differences, and also manifesting how to effectively adopt either or both the roles. Professionals often find themselves in an awkward position, when they are asked if they are a trainer or a facilitator. Whilst both the words may carry a set of generally similar meanings and roles, they do have a few distinctive differences. Let us take a look at some of the ways in which facilitation differs from training:

  • Firstly, training primarily conveys a pile of information or knowledge to the trainees, through the means of different media and teaching tools. In other words, the focus is on learning the content of the session, which can either be a theoretical framework, or a statistical figure. On the contrary, facilitation mainly commences after the training bit of delivering information has been completed. Facilitation involves having the learners think through the content that was shared, guide their thinking, discuss and analyse the topics, and assess them thoroughly to glean multiple perspectives and consider how they can be translated in to trainees’ respective job roles. In fact, the entire action of training would be nullified if the act of facilitation is not pursued.
  • Secondly, training carries an air of authoritative hierarchy, wherein the learner is expected to not know much, and only listen to what the trainer has to say. This, however, is not the case in facilitation. The facilitator model is a lot more collaborative as the trainees’ views are valued, and everyone’s opinions and insights are merged with the facilitators’ views in order to concoct a solid form of knowledge and learning. That said, facilitation includes a higher degree of participation and engagement from the trainees’ end.
  • Thirdly, training is likely to be a more linear process with a prominent inclination towards strictly following a set of rules, activities, and steps that must be pursued in order to reach the pre-determined learning objectives. However, under facilitation, the learning objectives are fixed, but the means of achieving them are flexible as facilitators prefer regulating their teaching approach on the basis of the learners’ preferences, and other circumstances.
  • Facilitators often want to make the learners or trainees feel responsible for their learning. Contrarily, trainers believe that it is solely their responsibility to allow the learning process to unfold. The former tends to be more impactful because when the learners are in charge of their learning, they obtain a sense of control, and choose to do it well as not doing so will reveal their incompetence. Importantly, we human beings never like to be told what to do, and that entire activity is eliminated when facilitators put the learners in the driving seat.
  • Another interesting difference is that training typically emphasises the achievement of long term goals, which is why the focus on delivering quality information and attaining the objectives is stringently sought. Alternatively, facilitation has an element of short-term orientation as facilitators often promote discussion and collaboration to reach a consensus on a particular topic of discussion. On that note, facilitation may not always be feasible during technical training sessions such as teaching the uses of a machinery. In such scenarios, the idea of discussion and collaboration is replaced by the need to deliver the uses of the machinery, and directly understanding how to operate them.

It is worth noting that there is no good or bad, nor are training and facilitation two extreme alternatives that individuals and professionals need to choose from. They both have their uses, and are often used interchangeably. Interestingly, trainers can be facilitators, facilitators can be trainers, or one person can play both the roles. In many virtual learning sessions, there are different roles played by trainers and facilitators. The trainers tend to deliver the information, and the facilitators then guide the discussion around it. Conversely, in a classroom, one person can enact both the roles, instead of having two individuals for performing different functions.

This dilemma should not confuse new trainers, and can be avoided if trainers engage in trainer training programs for new trainers. The trainer training programs will not only enable the new trainers to understand the difference between these terms, but will also prepare them to become effective in both the roles, without getting too caught up by the technical differences between them. As it happens, the idea of facilitation has grown from the shift in the training landscape as we have moved towards a more democratic learning style, wherein the participants’ views carry more weightage. The trainer training programs have played a particularly important role in highlighting the essence of facilitation, and continues to do so as the industry expands, and the need for trainer training programs for new and experienced trainers in corporate and other platforms, as well.

Written By : Shivangi Chakraborty


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