There are two types of people in the world: Those who like typologies; and, uh... those who don't. Typologies are simply ways of classifying anything -- ideas, objects, processes -- in order to illustrate their similarities and differences.
Today, I want to play with the concept from two directions:
1) Using Typologies to Facilitate Learning
As a learning designer, I find that I'm definitely in the "like" category when it comes to typologies. For me, typologies can be a helpful tool not only to clearly presenting complex information to the learners in a simplified fashion, but also to then invite them to explore it, add to it, disagree with it, and change it.
Typologies can also be a useful way of "setting the table" or outlining the full scope of issues before focusing in on a particular topic for the remainder of the workshop. Not that these typologies need to be perfect; in fact, they work better when they're not too perfect as a bit of imperfection tends to promote more discussion amongst the participants. The key is to present them in the spirit of dialogue as "works in progress" (which they always are) and invite the learners to make new meanings of them -- even to reject them.
2) A Typology of Five Facilitated Processes
Here's an example of how I facilitated a conversation about facilitation using a typology (still with me?). In a recent facilitation skills workshop that I led with my colleagues at The Natural Step Canada, I presented a typology of 5 Types of Facilitated Processes to kick start a discussion about the different roles that we play as facilitators of both learning (in blue on the left) and consensus-building processes (in orange on the right).
Here's what I proposed (hint: click on the image to see it in a larger format).
In this case, the typology served to validate everyone's work. Regardless of whether they mainly made presentations, delivered training workshops, facilitated transformational change processes, or led meetings -- everyone could see how their work reflected in the diagram. But because the visual was intentionally simplistic, it also created a dynamic tension to encourage the dialogue about what was missing or what they would change (e.g. adding in mediation or team building).
By creating space for dissent and re-interpretation, we got everyone up to speed and ready to move on. The learning task got us off to a good start and we then referred back to this diagram throughout the workshop as we explored different facilitation techniques in more detail.
Three Questions for You....
- Looking at the above diagram, which types of facilitated processes are you most involved with?
- What would you change in this diagram to make it more accurate or representative of your work as a facilitator?
- How have you used typologies in your facilitation work?
Please add your answers to the comments section below.