Are You a Trainer or a Facilitator? - dummies

Are You a Trainer or a Facilitator?

By Elaine Biech

New trainers sometimes question the difference between the training and facilitating roles when implementing the training design. In The Winning Trainer, Julius E. Eitington defines them as follows:

  • Trainer: Term used to describe a learner-centered conductor of a course or program. See also Facilitator.

  • Facilitator: A trainer who functions in a way to allow participants to assume responsibility for their own learning. The term is in contrast to the more didactic instructor, teacher, lecturer, presenter, and so on.

As you can see, Eitington, for one, believes that the words are interchangeable because the roles are identical. Some folks are not aware that the term training brings with it a definition that encompasses adult-learning theory. It assumes that an effective trainer has acquired a certain amount of knowledge and a specific skill set.

A manager is a manager. No one tries to tag on another title (well aloud, anyway) that differentiates effective managers from ineffective managers.

There may have been a time when trainers were “tellers” of information, using a didactic model with learners. This was before Malcolm Knowles started to promote the concept of andragogy in the sixties. To add further confusion, some confuse college instruction with training.

While it may be true that college professors should base more of their delivery on adult-learning principles, some trainers remember their experiences and want to disassociate themselves from it. Therefore, they give themselves a differentiating title of “facilitator” or “facilitative trainer.” A trainer is a facilitator. Rather: An effective trainer is a facilitator.

The definition of presenter is as follows.

Presenters: Title given adults who deliver speeches at conferences or to larger groups; minimal emphasis on two-way communication.

Sounds like an ineffective trainer. Wait a minute. Trainers present. They have to present new information in some way, or what would there be to learn? Do trainers only facilitate? No.

Trainers certainly facilitate activities. In addition, they also present information. An effective trainer makes certain that he or she presents this information in a facilitative way. Trainers who are delivering or implementing the training design (sometimes called stand-up trainers) must master two key skill sets when they conduct training sessions.

  • They facilitate small-group activities, large-group discussions, and learning in general.

  • They present new information, data, and knowledge.

Both of these skill sets are requirements for the job.

Mystery solved. A trainer is a facilitator and a presenter when delivering ­content, mentoring, coaching, and supporting change efforts. An effective trainer understands both roles and the skills associated with each. An effective trainer implements both roles when delivering training.

If you, as a trainer, believe that

  • Adult learning theory has merit.

  • Adults learn best when they are active rather than passive.

  • Adults learn best when challenged rather than talked at.

  • Adults learn best when involved rather than observing.

Then you probably embrace a participative training method, and make an effort to be an effective trainer who models both facilitation and presentation skills. You’re an effective trainer.