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Ib Ravn

The role of the facilitator in adult learning: a self-determination theory perspective

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearch

“Death by PowerPoint” remains a poignant trope, especially in conferences, seminars and professional development workshops. This paper explores the usefulness of group facilitators in such adult learning arenas. A facilitator may use simple and efficacious learning techniques as a supplement to traditional lectures. Also, the role of the facilitator in enabling conversations between many participants is key.

The effect of using group facilitation in the adult learning arena can be accounted for by Self-Determination Theory. SDT argues that people are spontaneously motivated when their basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness are addressed, through an approach known in SDT as need support.

The paper will demonstrate that the art of the facilitator lies in supporting the participants’ psychological needs. For example, midway through a long lecture, a facilitator may ask the audience “What has been useful to you in the lecture so far? Please discuss this with someone you don’t know for 10 minutes”. This allows everyone to be active and speak their minds (autonomy), recognizes their valuable experience and invites them to apply it (competence) and helps them meet and interact meaningfully with a stranger (relatedness).

Thus, the paper contributes to the study of adult learning in large arenas by proposing a theoretical framework to explain why group facilitation works, and it contributes to Self-Determination Theory by showing how learning in an arena hitherto unexplored by SDT—in particular, the professional conference—may be enhanced in a most SDT-like fashion through the decades-old discipline of group facilitation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year2018
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventICM 2018 - International Conference on Motivation : Learning for Motivation and Emotion - Aarhus Universitet, Aarhus, Denmark
Duration: 15 Aug 201817 Aug 2018


ConferenceICM 2018 - International Conference on Motivation
LocationAarhus Universitet
Internet address

    Research areas

  • Facilitation, Conferences, Learning, Self-Determination Theory, Psychological needs, Autonomy, Competence, Relatedness

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