Heron’s modes of facilitation


The three modes of facilitation

  1. The hierarchical mode.

Here you, the facilitator, direct the learning process, exercise your power over it, and do things for the group: you lead from the front by thinking and acting on behalf of the group. You decide on the objectives and the programme, interpret and give meaning & challenge resistances, manage group feelings, provide structures for learning and honour the claims of authentic behaviour in the group. You take full responsibility, in charge of all major decisions on all dimensions of the learning process.

  1. The co-operative mode.

Here you share your power over the learning process and manage the different dimensions with the group: you enable and guide the group to become more self-directing in the various forms of learning by conferring with them. You prompt and help group members to decide on the programme, to give meaning to experiences, to do their own confrontation, and so on. In this process, you share your own view which, though influential, is not final but one among many. Outcomes are always negotiated. You collaborate with the members of the group in devising the learning process: your facilitation is co-operative.

  1. The autonomous mode

Here you respect the total autonomy of the group: you do not do things for them, or with them, but give them freedom to find their own way, exercising their own judgment without any intervention on your part. Without any reminders, guidance or assistance, they evolve their programme; give meaning to what is going on, find ways of confronting their avoidances, and so on. The bedrock of learning is unprompted, self-directed practice, and here you gave space for it. This does not mean the abdication of responsibility. It is the subtle art of creating conditions within which people can exercise full self-determination in their learning.

The politics of learning

These three modes deal with the politics of learning, with the exercise of power in the management of the different dimensions of experience. They are about who controls and influences such management. Who makes the decisions about what people learn and how they learn it: the facilitator alone, the facilitator and group members together, or the group members atone?

As an effective facilitator, you are someone who can use all these three modes as and when appropriate; and are flexible in moving from mode to mode in the light of the changing situation in the group.

Source: The Facilitator’s Handbook. Heron

Tutorial Style

Heron (1986) produced a description of different facilitation styles that could be adopted by trainers as they performed various tasks. He describes three modes of facilitation.

Hierarchical Cooperative Autonomous
Trainer plans but does not really negotiate Trainer negotiates and coordinates planning Trainer delegates planning
Trainer inputs theory, interprets and assesses Trainer asks neutral questions (What is happening now?), uses descriptive feedback and negotiates assessment Trainer uses reflectionGroup self-assesses and self-analysesTrainer may even delegate this role
Trainer interprets and may even describe block Trainer describes events and asks for views on avoidance Trainer provides environment that is safe
Trainer decides how feelings are managed and thinks for the group
Trainer gives permission for catharsis
Trainer works with the group to develop ways to cope with feelings Trainer gives space to manage feelings
Trainer takes over the design and supervision of the learning process Trainer cooperates to let rules emerge using counselling skills Trainer delegates design
Trainer uses actions and commitment. i.e. charisma
Trainer has positive regard for others
Trainer collaborates to allow self-respect and favourable climate to emerge Trainer lets the group determine its own climate
Makes self-disclosures on values

Source: The Trainer’s Handbook. Middleton and Field, based on Six Category Intervention Analysis Heron