Brief Synopsis from a workshop at the ACCT Conference: 

The art of facilitation is about creatively using metaphors to assist participants in their own self-directed learning experience;   metaphorical reflection provides the scaffolding to help participants translate the meaning gleaned from an activity and apply life lessons to future learning opportunities.  The practice of using objects like shells, postcards, quotes, keyboard keys, or natural items allow participants to associate a memory (learning) with a meaningful physical object through both tactile and visual pathways. Activities where questions are posed to the group in a game-like format  allows participants to demonstrate understanding with their kinesthetic involvement and makes sure information is orally reviewed multiple times and by multiple participants.  The interactive nature of experiential initiatives also often creates spontaneous discussion about the topic at hand in a setting that participants have hopefully worked to make safe for all to share their ideas.

The science of facilitation is about experiential education creating fresh neurological pathways in the brain that is brought about by the reflective process after the activity has occurred.  For example, if a participant has just launched themselves from the Leap of Faith high ropes element (the action), allowing time after the activity for the participant to “pair and share” with a teammate, journal about the experience, or answer guided questions from the facilitator (the reflection) allows for the formation and strengthening of those neoro-pathways and the future application of the skills/lessons that have become illuminated. Experiential education is inherently utilizing multiple pathways of learning, such as visual, auditory, kinesthetic, social, which is further charged by the emotional buy-in of the participants. 

The primary-recency effect, simply defined, is that humans typically remember the first thing they see/experience in a new setting as well as the last or most recent thing they see/experience. As facilitators, it is our job to create many “primary-recency effect” moments for optimal learning. By using metaphors at the beginning and ending of an activity (book-ending), being aware of the flow of a program (allowing for natural “breaks”  or “Sy-NAP-ses” for the brain to absorb and process information), and being cognizant of the reflective process, challenge course facilitators are filling a key role in creating educational spaces for action, reflection, and meaning. 

By: Lorilei Dreibelbis, NOVA Challenge Course Facilitator, and Avery Born, Program Manager