MTa certification programme at RAF Halton

5 facilitators from RAF Halton to complete the MTa facilitator training course and become MTa certified.

The RAF use MTa training activities at numerous bases. Further afield the USAF and the RAAF have adopted MTa activities as part of their training programmes. There is a growing requirement within the armed services and externally for proficient MTa facilitators.

“Getting the most out of MTa activities requires skilled facilitation and a belief in the underlying principles and philosophy of experiential learning. It requires a mindset shift away from traditional instructing.”

MTa’s solution:
In response to this need we launched a certification programme that would enable facilitators to get the most out of MTa (and other) experiential learning tools. Importantly it would also recognise the achievements of the facilitators.

The Certification Programme at RAF Halton:-

The certification programme consisted of three, one day workshops spread over an eight week period. Between each workshop participants applied the principles that they learnt and developed with a group of genuine participants. The workshops gave facilitators an opportunity to practise their facilitations skills and identify areas for improvement, discover new and different MTa activities and learn more about the principles and philosophy behind experiential learning. The intervals between courses ensured were brought to the fore and discussed and the experiential approach embedded.

Step 1 (Day 1): Fundamental Principles of Experiential Learning and Areas for Improvement

Day 1 helped participants understand and develop the key skills, attitudes, approaches and behaviours to effectively deliver MTa experiential activities. Everyone became actively involved, taking on both student and facilitator roles. During the process we covered the theory that underpins experiential learning and MTa’s approach i.e. experiential learning in action. Our diagnostic questionnaire self-assessed each facilitator against 25 key facilitation skills and prioritised 3 skills to work on. This provided focus and direction to forthcoming activities. It was interesting to discover there were common themes which included:-
While running activities:-
+ Giving participants the space to make mistakes, experiment and learn
+ Resisting the temptation to ‘help’ participants succeed by suggesting solutions, re-stating objectives or clarifying unnecessarily.
While facilitating activities:-
+ Creating and making use of silence to encourage individual thought and contribution
+ Encouraging contribution from the group through careful questioning rather than offering direct feedback and personal observation.

Step 2: (Interval) Test and Apply

The interval between day 1 and day 2 gave facilitators an opportunity to apply the ideas and learning developed so far with a group of typical students. Record sheets were completed covering the planning and execution of the MTa sessions that were delivered; paying particular attention to the participants’ learning outcomes.

Step 3 (Day 2): Facilitation Skills in Action

Day 2 started with facilitators reflecting on, and discussing, their performance since the last session and then identifying any areas for improvement. Reports from the interval were largely positive with facilitators reporting that they were now able to conduct more engaging, relevant and intense reviews helping the trainees articulate, develop and commit to their own strategies for improvement.

The afternoon session aimed to reinforce and apply the principles of experiential learning. Facilitators designed and delivered a trial experiential programme with real trainees using MTa activities. Using the principles and approaches learnt and practiced over the preceding two days it was easy to engage the trainees in their own learning. The picture below shows the trainees in serious thought!

Step 4 (Interval)

The second interval was an opportunity to test out some more advanced MTa activities and apply the lessons learnt during day 2. By now the experiential approach and philosophy was becoming second nature!

Step 5 (Day 3): Advanced Facilitation

By now each facilitator had applied experiential principles in practice so it was time to develop a more conceptual understanding of experiential learning and facilitation. A second questionnaire based on the behaviours and approaches promoted heated debate around the role of the facilitator. Our more advanced activities were then used to look at how experiential learning can be used for areas such as leadership, risk management, negotiation and conflict resolution.

At the end of the day everyone had the opportunity for a 1:1 ‘personal development’ discussion with the MTa facilitator, providing an opportunity to ask questions, cover off remaining issues and receive 1:1 coaching on the next steps required to take facilitating to the next level.

Hear from the Certified Facilitators:

Flt Lt Jo Johnson; OC Force Development Training Flight (OC FDTF)

“I organise Force Development and training opportunities for Station personnel in order to ensure that they are better able to deal with current operations. Force development is enhanced in a number of ways often utilising experiential learning. I wanted to learn how to use the materials to carry out sessions with personnel to enhance their communication, teambuilding and leadership skills. The MTa course has enabled me to facilitate longer reviews and feel more confident when using the equipment. I’m now using the MTa activities to facilitate a number of sessions on Station.”

Sgt Angie Backhouse-Humby; JMLC Instructor

“We’ve had the MTa kit at ACS for a while, but it was only ever used by the Training Team during their Instructor Inductions and FD days. Having used it as a student and realised its’ potential, and having the opportunity to become proficient in its use through a facilitators course seemed the only sensible course of action.
During the facilitators’ course, and after it, I have used the kit to great effect with both JMLC students, but also for school children (aged 11 to 16) on “Teambuilding” day visits to RAF Halton. Durable, with a multitude of applications; Leadership, Teambuilding and Ice breaking, they are a great alternative to the “same old, same old”.
I would like to thank Jamie, for the opportunity to develop my facilitation through the course, and facilitation support after.”

Cpl Michelle O’Connell

“I am an Instructor on the Servicemen Awaiting Trade Training Flight at RAF Halton. My primary role is to develop the trainees who are holding there prior to starting their Phase 2 Training. I specialise in teaching Air Power, General Service Knowledge and Drill and also promoting teamwork, leadership and communication skills. The MTa course gave me the confidence to use the equipment effectively with the trainee’s, allowing them to develop personally and professionally. I now run regular teambuilding and leadership exercises, giving the trainee’s the opportunity to work together, review their performances and have some fun at the same time!
Many thanks again for running a really enjoyable course for us.”

Cpl Lisa Hall and Cpl Kelvin Park were also certified.

By the end of the course facilitators had:-
+ Adopted the principles and philosophy behind experiential learning
+ Delivered activities using the skills, attitudes and approaches required to make the most of experiential learning
+ Experienced different activities from the MTa Insights and MTa Team KIT and the discovered the interrelationships between them
+ Developed facilitation skills and received constructive feedback on their performance

These experiences had a marked impact on the way that experiential learning was delivered.

Positive changes included:-
+ Facilitators were confident to stand back from activities and observe, safe in the knowledge that it was ok to let participants make mistakes
+ When interventions occurred they were to help unblock learning opportunities not help participants ‘succeed’ at a task
+ Tried and tested MTa briefs were used and understood, homespun activities may be easier to get to grips with but the learning outcomes are seldom as powerful or long lasting
+ Individual thinking time after activities was introduced, in many cases supported by individual questionnaires
+ Improvements in the way that activities were run and the introduction of individual thinking time allowed longer and more powerful reviews to be facilitated
+ The work on facilitation skills and peer to peer feedback meant facilitators asked more challenging questions. In the words of one facilitator, before the course it was difficult to keep the trainees engaged for 5 minutes, now 45 minutes is possible.

If you would like to become certified or require further information on how you can embed an experiential and facilitative approach within your organisation please contact Jamie. The certification programme above was been designed specifically for uniformed services, but we are happy to design and run similar programmes for all types of organisation.