Learning facilitation by observing


When somebody tells us that he or she wants to learn facilitation, we recommend three things you must do and those are: observe, observe and observe.

Most of what we have learned about facilitation has actually come about because we observed and are still observing and learning. Which is why when people want to learn from us, we gently, but firmly turn them to learn from children themselves by observing them. You can observe one child (your child), but it is even more beneficial is when you can observe multiple children (say in Aarohi or in a school or in a park or in a party). When you read books written by educationists like John holt or Maria Montessori, etc you realise that most of what they have done is keenly observed children and thence sharing their learning.

Let us elaborate on the three observe approach:

Observe 1: Many of us, especially those who like working with children, when we see a child, we want to engage with the child. If the child is doing something, we want to either do with the child or teach the child or start talking to the child, typically appreciating or questioning etc. Our suggestion is DON’T. Just sit back and observe. Do not involve or engage with the children. Even if they invite, say politely, “I just want to observe”. Moreover, show that you are busy reading or writing or doing something else – so the children do not become conscious that you are observing them. So camouflaged in another activity, you can observe them without tarnishing the child’s environment.

Observe 2: Write down only observations and not your assumptions, or judgement or inferences/conclusions. The idea is to only observe and NOT analyse.
“Child was making all kinds of sounds to attract attention”. ‘Wanting to attract attention’ is our assumption. An observation would be “Child was making continuously making different sounds from his mouth in high volume”

“Child made a beautiful clay pot”. ‘Beautiful’ here is a judgement.

“Child was enjoying painting” is not an observation. The word ‘enjoying’ implies either assumption on our part or inference based on what we saw (maybe the child’s facial expressions). An observation would be,
“Child was painting or engaged in painting for 20min”.

You would realize that at the time of making the observation we might end up adding out judgement or inference – hence it is important that we WRITE DOWN observations so that later we can strike out the part which is an assumption or judgement etc or even re-write the observation

Observe 3: Instead of doing general observation – do specific observations – it is like looking for observation on a specific category or question or keyword. When we look for observations on a specific aspect – we are likely to find them and then a collection of them would lead to some understanding and hence learning.

So it is a good idea to make a list of questions or keywords or points or categories that you want to collect your observations on. This keeps us focused and also helps us make immediate sense of the observations we collect.

As an observer visualise yourself to be a cctv camera. The camera observes everything, is non-intrusive, non-analytical, non-judgmental, yet the data collected is quite useful.

If you are doing the observation – observe and observe as above, its a good idea to share your observations with others – so that others can benefit, as well as they can point out where you have gone into analysing rather than observing!