I often get asked what the difference is between a trainer and a facilitator. Training providers have a tendency to use the two terms interchangeably on their websites, without an explanation of the difference.
The aim of this post is to give you a better understanding of the two terms and how they should be used correctly.
The difference between training and facilitation revolves around the relationship between content and process. Someone who trains, instructs, or teaches has specific content that needs to be learned by participants and this is done through presentation and practice.
An effective trainer prepares objectives, exercises, and activities that introduce, then reinforce the content, and test what was learned typically through participation and in some cases discussion. The trainer pays attention to the learning process using activities that are carefully selected and paced.
This is usually delivered through a short training session (introductory) or a training plan (ongoing skill progression/knowledge). It is important to note that once a fundamental skill has been learned, the trainer then continues to coach learners before introducing a new skill.
A facilitator does not need to have thorough content knowledge of the problems the group is discussing nor possess expert knowledge (as long as someone in the group does). Instead, the facilitator must know the decision-making process, problem-solving methods, when to intervene, and how to guide the team in the right direction.
There are occasions when the facilitator will don the trainer’s hat to educate the group or team members on certain skills. When this happens though, they will announce the shift so the team understands and accepts this change.
The facilitator must understand the group process, how to prepare and monitor agendas, and how to help the group or team achieve its goals. The dictionary states that to ‘facilitate’ means to make something easier.
A facilitator, therefore does whatever is necessary to make things easier for team members so that they can complete their work and get the most from the workshop.
This may involve using questions, activities, reflective practice, and other methods to help teams move towards their goal (or learning) through self-discovery.
They ease a group through the process of setting goals, stating expectations, agreeing on procedures, solving problems, and making decisions. The facilitator remains neutral while playing this role, remaining impartial throughout the process, and only intervenes when necessary to move the process forward.
Hopefully, that’s cleared that one up. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments box below.