Managing Difficult Situations

There are many times when working as a facilitator that you will have to deal with difficult situations. Being prepared for these eventualities can mean that you are able to handle them a lot better when they arise. You will also need to know how to react when you suddenly find yourself in the middle of an unpleasant or difficult situation. Your mission is to tackle the tasks below.

Being prepared for anything

The table below came from a free handout that you can download from the database at the International Association of Facilitators website. The worksheet has 40 situations that you might need to deal with when facilitating sessions. Your first task on this page is to add your ideas to the sections of the table. All ideas are accepted and feel free to add to a box that someone has already added to.
---- What the----Facilitator can do before a session starts
----What the Facilitator---- can do in a session before the situation arises
----What the facilitator---- should not do when the situation arises
----What the----
facilitator can do when the situation arises

----What the---
facilitator can do after the session is finished

People assume they’re right

Establishing norms at the beginning of sessions, such as 'People are entitled to different opinions.'

People wait until others have finished talking, then state their ideas without responding to the ideas of the other person

People get personally attacked and blamed

Hot topics get thrashed out in an unstructured way

Enter into an 'argument.'
Offer to discuss the topic further with individual(s) at the end of the session.
Follow-up later when the situation is likely to have diffused.
The Negative, Gloomy, and “nothing will work” One
Expect that there are likely to be people who do feel this way!
Give an opportunity to express a negative/frustrating experience (perhaps in a small group.)
Negate the feelings.
Ask the group to offer possible solutions for the "nothing works" problems

Strategies to help difficult conversations

Dealing with problems as they arise

There are times when you can find yourself on the receiving end as a facilitator either at cluster level or within your own school. Below there are a few scenarios outlined in a Voicethread. Listen to each slide and then add a comment to that slide showing how you would respond in that situation. You will need to have a Voicethread account to participate in this activity which you can sign up for at

Eastnet Cluster

The Eastnet cluster have recently worked on looking at difficult scenarios and then developing ways to support people in those situations at their recent lead teacher meeting. This is available on their wiki. You can look at the scenarios and then see what ideas people came up with in their teams.
Team Zucchini
Team Portobello
Team Butternut
Team Beetroot
Team Aubergine

Working with 'the reluctants'

There are always some teachers on every staff who feel that the work you are trying to do with them is not a priority for them! They can be very entrenched in their views and it may seem that they will never move forward at times!

What are the possible causes for this behaviour and how can you help them to move forward?
Add your ideas below:
  • Fear - people will often rather be thought of as stubborn than ignorant - make sure that the things you ask them to do are couched in quality reasons about how this will impact the learning they are already aiming for in their class, and stress that they need to be the initiator and that they should create opportunities for students to explore and share discoveries with the software. This is pedagogically sound as students need to learn how to engage with software not be locked in to dependence every time there is something new to use.
  • Jamie McKenziehas done some thinking around this which might help. He always has great down to earth suggestions.
  • Richard Millwood (based in the UK) suggests:
    1 I wonder whether focussing on some individual learners and privately demonstrating transformational gains for them - eg reluctant writers becoming confident through word-processing, work done at home, collaborative video productions, a vital 'ah-hah' moment which motivates a reluctant child... for this, the ICT leader has to gather data and evidence and share it without commentary or judgement.
    2 How about displays of work, awards and learner recognition in assemblies? Again the key is showing specific, attributable success rather than generalised feel-good.
    3 Then there's the stick - key announcements, reporting and school business providing meaningful and purposeful reasons to personally engage.
    4 ...and the carrots - playful and creative time together where ICT benefits are in evidence for the teacher as a learner in th context of professional development - in the privacy that will allow risks and confidence to build.
    5 And professional recognition - for critical friendship which identifies weaknesses in the approaches that derive from ICT.