For many of us, a career in L&D was something we stumbled upon. Not for Lena.
For Lena, it was a calling she felt connected to from the very beginning. "I think it's very funny because, in a way, you can say I was born into it, literally born into it," Lena says, reflecting on her journey with a hint of amusement. Being raised in a home where education was part of daily life— her father's job as a teacher wasn't just work—was a lifestyle that greatly shaped her.
Lena's path from stepping into a teaching role, to pursuing her academic and professional career in L&D, felt like a natural progression. She embraced the challenges of facilitation, such as managing difficult participants and mastering the dynamics of large groups, with open arms. "But somehow everything felt very natural for me," she recalls, recognizing her fears but not letting them overwhelm her.
At the heart of Lena's facilitation technique is a simple, yet profound belief: to truly make a difference, one must love their learners. "The biggest quality of a facilitator is really loving your learners," she shares, revealing the core of her approach.
This fundamental principle has guided her through countless workshops and sessions, allowing her to connect with participants on a deeper level and create a learning environment that's both engaging and effective.
In this interview, Lena opens up about her methods and philosophies that have helped her transform the typical, often dull facilitation experience into something memorable and impactful.
Through her story, we get a glimpse into the art of facilitation done right—where understanding, empathy, and genuine passion for learning come together to create an environment where people thrive.
Essential mindsets of modern facilitators
Moving away from passive learning
Lena's perspective on the essential skills for modern facilitators paints the picture of a dynamic and engaging learning environment. Far from the traditional, static methods of teaching, she emphasizes a more interactive and learner-centered approach.
Central to her philosophy is the concept of active learning. Lena firmly believes in moving away from a one-way information flow, where facilitators simply unload content. Instead, she advocates for an environment that encourages participation and interaction.
"Facilitation is all about creating a space for active learning. So not about passive listening, just being there and listening to somebody speaking," Lena states.
Additionally, Lena underscores the significance of coaching skills in facilitation. It's not just about delivering content but about guiding learners to find their own answers.
"Nowadays, you see the shift towards asking questions, trying to elicit answers, trying to help people find their own solutions, instead of spoon-feeding them," she explains.
This approach empowers learners, making the learning process more about exploration and self-discovery, and supporting them in identifying how the learning experience connects with their context, helping with learning transfer.
Lena also touches on a less conventional but crucial aspect of facilitation: embodied presence, a topic often overlooked yet vital in her methodology.
Embracing embodied learning in facilitation
Embodied learning means integrating movement and physicality into the learning process, aiming for deeper, more impactful outcomes.
"I always thought that learning is very strict, very serious, and then I discovered embodied learning here in the Netherlands, and I was shocked," Lena shares, recounting her initial encounter with the method that would redefine her approach to facilitation.
Embodied learning, as Lena practices it, bridges the gap between the cognitive and the physical, tapping into the learners' unconscious to bring about a more profound understanding.
"It's a way of reaching the unconscious and making it so that the unconscious becomes conscious because your body never lies," she states, highlighting the authenticity and immediacy of learning through action.
This method allows participants to experience learning with their entire being, making the lessons not just heard but felt, leading to revelations that are both personal and powerful.
This approach also speaks to the holistic nature of learning, where the division between mind and body is blurred. Lena advocates for a learning environment that recognizes the learner as a whole person. "The cognition is not disembodied. So there's no cognition without embodiment, which makes complete sense," she asserts, citing the interconnectedness of thought and physicality.
Empathy and care as stepping stones of impactful facilitation
Yet, at the core of Lena's facilitation philosophy lies something else. A simple yet profound belief: the importance of genuinely loving and caring for learners.
"The biggest quality you can nurture for yourself, as a facilitator is really loving your learners," she states.
The impact of embodying a caring attitude is significant. It not only encourages participation and engagement but also nurtures a learning community based on trust and mutual respect.
Learners are more likely to take risks, ask questions, and deeply engage with the experience when they feel supported and valued.
Lena's belief in the power of love within the learning environment transforms the educational experience into a journey of personal and collective growth.